Land-grant universities historically provide research-proven production data for crops, often delivered by Extension specialists and county agents, but frequently by industry representatives.
This information is packaged in a number of ways, but has been a cornerstone for steadily increasing yields and overall farm production over the past century.
A dramatic increase in technological opportunities and changes in production practices across a broad range of crops has stretched the ability of land-grant researchers to keep pace in the past few years.
Since the 2008 worldwide recession, dramatic budget cuts have further eliminated both people and programs, further stressing the system’s ability to keep up with the needs of an ever-changing agriculture industry.
A panel made up of deans of agriculture in the Southeast made a unified and passionate plea for help at the recent Southern Peanut Growers Association meeting in Panama City Beach, Fla.
Deans from Auburn University, University of Florida, University of Georgia and Mississippi State University each cited similar challenges facing land-grant Agriculture programs in the future.
Agriculture deans, agricultural experiment station directors and cooperative Extension directors have been telling politicians and heads of other revenue generating organizations for years that the sky is clearly going to fall, unless they find more funds for agricultural teaching, research and Extension.
In the past those may have been hollow warnings based on a need to build an academic empire. Now, the proverbial sky may really be about to fall on agriculture programs in land-grant institutions across America.
At the same meeting in Florida, a panel of peanut researchers and Extension leaders talked about production problems facing peanut growers this year.
Veteran peanut scientists like Jay Chapin, recently retired from Clemson and John Beasley at the University of Georgia, noted a lack of up-to-date research-proven information on this or that area of peanut production.
The first, and most prominent, result of the sky falling on ag programs in land-grant colleges is dire shortages of information available for commercial farmers to use in growing crops.
Basic production information is still there — things like variety performance and soil nutrient analysis. Specific data about a new variety, how a new corn hybrid reacts to different irrigation rates, for example, is hard to find.
In the peanut industry, hot and dry harvest time weather the past couple of years has produced a proliferation of burrower bugs.
Clemson Peanut Specialist Jay Chapin conducted some of the last research done of these yield busting insects.
“Up to date information on burrower bugs is hard to find, because we haven’t had the resources to continue doing research on these insects and how they affect modern varieties and modern production practices,” Chapin says.
David Adams, former University of Georgia entomologist echoes Chapin’s concerns about limited information available to farmers.