Tame the sprawl of Penn State's Ag Progress Days with research tours

University Park, Pa. -- Hiking around the 1,500-acre Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs would be a taxing way to learn about the science of agriculture, but for those interested in agricultural research, there's an alternative to shoe leather.

During Penn State's 2010 Ag Progress Days, set for Aug. 17-19, visitors can be conveyed to the latest research on topics ranging from crop production and pest management to honey bee health and biofuels via free bus tours leaving at regular intervals from the corn crib on Main Street at the Ag Progress Days site.

The General Research Tour is a 40-minute overview of research conducted by Penn State's departments of Crop and Soil Sciences, Entomology, Horticulture and Plant Pathology, as well as the USDA Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Laboratory. Buses leave daily at 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., with additional tours at 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Visitors can get an in-depth look into the mysterious colonial life of the honey bee on the Apiary Tour, a 75-minute research excursion conducted by Penn State faculty, staff and students to address the crisis facing bees. Buses leave daily at 10:30 a.m.

The two-hour Deer Research Center Tour lets visitors see live deer and various antler displays while discussing deer biology and management research with members of the Quality Deer Management Association. In the event of inclement weather, animals will be viewed from the bus and a slide show will be presented in the display room. Buses leave daily at 9 a.m., with an additional tour at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

The Habitat Management for Quality Whitetails and Other Wildlife Tour will focus on food plots and other habitat-management practices designed to improve habitat quality for many wildlife species while producing healthier deer. Participants will visit recently installed habitat demonstration plots in the woodlot and neighboring fields. Buses leave daily at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., with an additional tour at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

The 75-minute High Tunnel Education Facility Tour will demonstrate the most current production systems and horticultural crops that can be produced in high tunnels. This year, researchers will demonstrate a movable high tunnel that allows growers more flexibility in producing annual and perennial crops. Buses leave daily at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

The one-hour Stream Riparian Buffers and Native Prairie Grasses Tour presents the benefits of forested and grassed stream buffers and how to install and maintain them. Visitors will see a prairie grass demonstration plot and learn how to establish and maintain native grasses with wildflowers for wildlife habitat, biofuels and more. Buses leave daily at 11:30 a.m.

The historical, one-hour Charcoal Production Tour will highlightthe making of hardwood charcoal for early iron production. A "visitor" to the woodlot from the 1800s will explain the craft of the colyer, or master charcoal maker. Buses leave daily at noon.

The Mushroom Facility Tour is a two-hour visit to Penn State's Mushroom Test Demonstration Facility that will reveal how mushrooms are grown in Pennsylvania, the nation's leading mushroom-producing state with a yield of about 500 million pounds per year. Buses leave daily at 11:30 a.m.

The one-hour Thinning and Regenerating the Woodlot Tour is a short walking overview of recent forest-management practices, including firewood cutting, aggressive pine and hardwood woodlot thinning and patch-oak regeneration efforts. Buses leave daily at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., with an additional tour at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

The Whole Cow Composting Tour is a 30-minute presentation that will provide an instructional discussion for producers interested in on-farm disposal of any animal species. The tour will cover the technical aspects of carcass composting and regulatory considerations to help producers get started or improve upon their existing composting skills. A working carcass-compost pile will be available on site for participants to see the process and construction first-hand. Buses leave Tuesday and Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. and Thursday at 11 a.m.

The American Chestnut Research Tour features a one-hour wagon ride through chestnut orchards to learn about the breeding program of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation, which is testing trees for disease resistance and biomass projects. Tours begin at the foundation's display booth on West 11th Street and are offered Tuesday at 10 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.; Wednesday at 10 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.; and Thursday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Penn State's Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, nine miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 17; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 18; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 19. Admission and parking are free. For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days Web site at http://apd.psu.edu.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010