Dr. Kevin Donnelly and the Ag in the Classroom Summer Workshop

(Dr. Kevin Donnelly) I’m Dr. Kevin Donnelly, a Professor of Agronomy, Kansas State University. Today we’re here working with our Kansas Foundation for Ag in the Classroom’s summer workshop for teachers. And so, we’re pleased to be able to participate in that. We do a number of activities here involving plants and soils. This is also the International Year of Soils, so we’ve put a special emphasis on soils this year as well. One of the experiments or demonstrations that I always like to show the teachers that they can use for showing children the impact of soil erosion is just a little simple display. It doesn’t cost a lot. It’s made out of foil pans and a couple of two by fours and you can do it on a curb here. So what we’ve done is set up some pans of soil. And we have a bare soil, we have cut up a little thin layer of sod to put on one of the pans, and then the other one we have residue cover, that is some straw or leaves. You could use whatever you want. So, then where you have done the demonstration that you will see to show that the residue cover or the grass cover will protect that soil from the impact of the raindrops, where the bare soil will show a lot of erosion in terms of water moving off, soil moving off, water comes off with a lot of soil particles. And so it’s a good easy demonstration to show… and an inexpensive way to show the impact of cover on soil to prevent soil erosion. The other that we talked about this morning, we’ve had a focus on nutrients. We’ve had presentation from a staff person from Nutrients for Life. We’ve also talked about the different nutrients and what plants need to get from, obtain from the soil. And we also talked quite a bit about the advantage of legume crops, which are able to fix their own nitrogen from the air, through the interaction with the rhizobia bacteria that live in the nodules. So, this morning we’re out in the field, looking here just in a lawn here on campus, and we were able to find some white clover and birdsfoot trefoil and sweet clover, red clover, these are just kind of growing along with our grass here. And even a weedy species called black medic that’s also a legume. So, we’re looking at those nodules, which live, which are formed on the root system at the bacteria live within to perform the nitrogen fixing process. Something that we kind of don’t even know is happening sometimes, so again a very important process because it provides us with nitrogen that we don’t have to use as fertilizer, or as much fertilizer on legume crops, compared to what we do on wheat and corn and sorghum and our grass crops. So, one of our main objectives with Ag in the Classroom is as well in our education efforts, we talk a lot about STEM education- Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are kind of those basic core disciplines that we can apply then into something that is a career opportunity, an opportunity to help feed the world, to provide for human needs. And so agronomy, plant science, applications using crops, growing crops, learning about it. So we work with the teachers to try to start to bring some of these agricultural examples. And we’ll also talk about animal examples this afternoon, to utilize that in teaching to help bring science and math and technology into…a practical application that hopefully will inspire some students to seek out careers in these areas. And so we’ve had a very strong demand in the area of agronomy for students, graduates to work in the area of seed, fertilizer and protecting our environment. So, we’re all about trying to get that seed, if you will, planted at the elementary age.

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