MU South Farm Showcase continues Dean Tom Payne’s vision in its 13th year

Event attractions ranged from a corn maze to a high tech drone and offered entertaining ways to learn about the many facets of agriculture.

On Saturday, Sept. 29, the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources hosted its 13th annual South Farm Showcase.

Thirteen years ago, Thomas L. Payne, CAFNR vice chancellor and dean, decided the event was the best way to showcase the projects taking place at South Farm. For Payne, showing the work was about a lot more than putting on demonstrations to a crowd — he wanted an interactive showcase that people from the community would enjoy.

The showcase looks like a county fair. There is a corn maze and tractor rides to entertain children. However, while those attractions caught the attention of the kids, it was the massive DJI MG-1P drone located next to the corn maze that drew in people of all ages.

Will Knuckles, the senior research specialist who works on the NRCS + MU Grasslands Project and also works with MU variety testing, was on sight to talk about one of the newest additions to CAFNR.

“The DJI MG-1P is basically a spray or broadcast drone,” Knuckles said. “So, we have a three-gallon liquid spray tank we can put on it. Normal aerial applied rates are about two gallons an acre for a helicopter or three gallons for a plane. We can adjust the software to deliver amounts greater or less than that, [it] just depends on what our goals are.”

In June, CAFNR purchased the drone for $17,000 for variety testing, which will do the same amount of work of a $300,000 big sprayer. Though testing is just in its infancy, Knuckles already sees promise in the work done so far. He believes that drones may soon be a viable option for farmers in the future.

“One thing I’ve really seen is days when your field conditions don’t allow you to drive around. This equipment allows you to apply fungicide or seed where you might be waiting a week or so to get over it,” Knuckles said. “I think that if they get these things down cheap enough … and they’re a little bit more automated, you will be able to buy a lot of these. They can run a lot longer around the clock than a lot of other equipment.”

Just behind the drone were two playing fields, one with putt-putt golf and another with soccer goals set up. Watching over the fields was Lee Miller, director of Integrated Pest Management, whose research activities center on the development of disease management strategies.

“We’re trying to instruct homeowners about their lawns, which is something that they don’t often think about, but it’s not a resource that you just plant once and it just stays there forever,” Miller said. “There are some certain things this time of year that you can do. This is a perfect time to seed turf grasses.”

Miller took the opportunity at the South Farm Showcase to educate the residents of Boone County on the expansive program at MU.

“I work on turf, I’m a turfgrass pathologist, which means I’m a coroner for grass,” Miller said. “We have an expansive program here. Currently, we have 10 different trial evaluations, 14 different species and over 400 different cultivars here in Missouri. Missouri is a very difficult environment to grow any plant in. My adage is we can grow any plant we want here, we just can’t grow it very well.”

The showcase is about more than just faculty work, however, with student organizations like the MU Agronomy Club in attendance as well.

“We support youth and agriculture,” senior Dalton Gillig said. “We come out here to events like the South Farm Showcase and we help kids learn how to shuck corn and show them what corn and soybeans are all about.”

Gillig said the South Farm Showcase is a very big event for the club, with their first meeting of the year being dedicated to finding interactive ideas for kids to do at their booth.

“We had our first meeting, and we all sat down for about 30 minutes, and we decided [on] shelling corn and talking about corn and how it grows and soybeans and how the pods develop,” Gillig said.

Though, with all the science on display, it is easy to forget about the community and interactive elements that Payne strived for. For Booneville native and elementary student Jack Widmer, those were out in full force.

“My favorite part of the show was definitely the corn maze,” Widmer said. “I just had to get through. As a matter of fact, I found out that there was actually no end, but just had to get around as far as you can and then go back.”

Edited by Laura Evans | levans@themaneater.com

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