Thursday, September 8, 2022
Ashley Jacque, an agronomy management student at Chippewa Valley Technical College, contemplates yield numbers of a farm in Menomonie, Thursday, Sept. 8.
Corn stalks towered over Ashley Jacque and a group of first-year agronomy students at Chippewa Valley Technical College as they parted their way 40 yards into the cornfield to assess growing cobs.
Jacque, 23, a second-year agronomy management student from Thorp, was in their shoes last year. Now she leads new students as they learn how to determine yields during the program’s two-day Tour de Crops.
Brent Christianson, instructor of the course, modeled CVTC’s Tour de Crops activity after the multi-state Pro Farmer Crop Tour.
Before participating in the crop tour, CVTC students learned about crop tallying in the classroom.
"The tour is a way to get students in the field," Christianson said Thursday while standing in CVTC’s Right Choice Acres field. “What they’re learning is one of the competencies of the class. The unique part about this experience is the extra stuff that we can’t see at Right Choice Acres.”
On Wednesday, the first day of the tour, two groups of students traveled more than 400 miles throughout west-central Wisconsin to check on farmers’ crops at other farms.
Both groups saw below-average yields at most farms they visited. Christianson blames a late growing season, a wet start and a very dry end of summer.
As they determined the crops’ yield, they also took note of any insect infestations or overgrowth of weeds. If either were present, students would mention it to the farmer so something different could be done to ward against it for the next growing season.
Jacque said insects and weeds could take a toll on a crop – something she learned more about during her summer internship at Black’s Valley Ag in Durand, a family-owned agriculture retailer founded in 1990.
Jacque credited the internship, coupled with her classes and the Tour de Crops activity, having connected the dots for her.
“It clicks a lot more now,” she said. “I still remember being a first-year student coming out (in the field). I was really confused about what to measure and how to do the calculations and equations. I was so lost.
“But now I get it, and I’m helping the first-year students and letting them know if they have questions they can ask.”
Christianson said his favorite part of the tour is watching students understand the process and being surprised by one “cool thing” on the tour. This year it was witnessing a crop duster flying over cover crops.
“You can’t plan this kind of thing,” he said. “The farmer is one we’ve worked with in the past, and his farm is organic, which is cool. So, he took the students out to the field and showed them what it looked like. Then the plane landed and was back in the air in four minutes. It was so cool.”
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