Penn State exhibit at state Farm Show dripping with information

University Park, Pa. -- The many faces of Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences will be evident at the 2010 Pennsylvania Farm Show, to be held from Jan. 9 to 16, in Harrisburg, Pa. The showpiece will be an exhibit highlighting a wide range of research and outreach related to water quality, but the college's presence will be felt throughout the sprawling Farm Show Complex.

With the theme, "Water: Our Resource, Our Future," the college's exhibit in the Main Exhibits Hall just off the Maclay Street entrance will show how the college's teaching, research and extension programs are raising awareness about water quality and quantity issues in the Keystone State.
"Protecting and enhancing the precious water resources of the commonwealth have been an integral part of Penn State's land-grant mission since the University's inception," said Bryan Swistock, Penn State Cooperative Extension water resources specialist. "These days, we are focusing on threats to water quality and quantity like never before, and I think that's reflected in this exhibit."
Among displays in the College of Agricultural Sciences exhibit:
-- Green roof technology. Penn State is at the forefront of green-roof research and implementation, with green roofs on a number of campus buildings. Researchers in the college have been studying green roofs for more than a decade, and Penn State's Center for Green Roof Research was the first of its type in North America. Also, Penn State was the first institution to offer a class in which students design and construct green roofs and living walls on real structures.
"The green roof concept is ancient -- a roof covered with vegetation -- but the current application to urban storm water management is new," said Swistock. "The exhibit will show the many environmental benefits of green roofs."
-- Drinking water quality and testing. There are more than 1 million private wells in Pennsylvania, and about half of those tested have at least one water-quality problem. Testing well water allows families to eliminate contaminants in their drinking water. Presented by Penn State's Master Well Owner Network -- Pennsylvania’s volunteer network for private water-system protection -- this exhibit will offer information for those who depend on private water systems.
"Our trained volunteers educate rural homeowners on best practices to protect and maintain private water supplies," said Swistock. "Visitors can ask our volunteers questions about their private well, spring or cistern or pick up educational materials that can teach them how to safely manage their private water system."
According to Swistock, visitors can learn about the top five health-threatening drinking-water contaminants -- coliform bacteria, E. coli, lead/copper (corrosivity), nitrate-nitrogen and arsenic -- and the top five nuisance or aesthetic drinking water contaminants: hardness, hydrogen sulfide, iron, manganese and turbidity.
-- The Conewago Creek Discovery Watershed Project. A targeted watershed initiative of the college is aimed at restoring the 78-mile-long stream in Dauphin County that is polluted with sediments and nutrients from agricultural and other nonpoint sources of runoff, and as a result is unable to sustain fish and other aquatic life found in healthy streams.
-- The importance of nutrient management. Nutrient management is critical to restoring water quality and keeping a balance in our local water sources. Nutrients are an essential part of agriculture, used to raise healthy crops and livestock, but nutrients from feed and fertilizer can also be a detriment to our environment when too much reaches our water sources.
"Excess nutrients and sediments leech into bodies of water from many different sources," said Swistock. "An excess of nutrients can boost aquatic plant growth and disrupt the gentle balance of aquatic ecosystems. When this occurs, organisms die off, and water sources are unable to support aquatic life. We see this clearly with the anoxic areas, or dead zones, that have developed in the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico."
-- Water conservation: Each person in Pennsylvania uses more than 60 gallons of water every day just in their home. Some of this water is heated for cooking, bathing and washing, resulting in significant energy costs. Visitors to this exhibit will learn how and why they should conserve water. Simple water-conserving appliances can reduce annual household energy costs by hundreds of dollars. Conserving water also can promote better functioning of on-lot septic or sewer systems.
Looking for good students
College officials also hope to connect with prospective students at the Farm Show. "We're always looking for good students," said J. Marcos Fernandez, associate dean for undergraduate education. "We are excited about showcasing the numerous fulfilling careers associated with agriculture and renewable natural resources."
"We look forward to meeting with families and students of all ages," Fernandez added. "There are many educational and career opportunities in the agricultural sciences, and it all starts at Penn State, one of the premier agricultural colleges in the nation."
Faculty, staff and students from the College of Agricultural Sciences will be on hand with information about the college's programs in the food, agricultural and natural resource sciences. With 19 majors and about $1.8 million in scholarships available, the college has considerable diversity in its academic programs and many educational and life-changing opportunities to offer prospective students, according to Fernandez.
Renewable energy
Penn State also will take part in the renewable agricultural energy exhibit area in the new Expo Hall. More than 40 exhibitors will share the latest information on biomass technologies. Researchers from the College of Agricultural Sciences will showcase how the latest technology can be used to convert biomass feedstocks -- such as wood, switchgrass, canola, mustard, camelina and soybean -- into biofuels.
"The University is showcasing its diverse research and outreach aimed at taking the abundant biomass resources of Pennsylvania and turning them into energy products," said Tom Richard, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, who is director of the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment.
Presentations on the stage
The college will offer presentations throughout the week on the stage near the college's exhibit with titles such as "Attracting Birds to Your Garden," "Homeowner Pesticide Safety," "Floral Design," "Diagnosing Plant Problems," "Home Greenhouses and Cold Frames," "Pollinator Gardens," "Water Resources Issues for Rural Landowners," "4-H Seeing-Eye Dogs" and "Coping with High Energy Prices in the Home."
Ag safety and health
The Pennsylvania Farm Safety and Health Quiz Bowl will be offered by the college at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 13. FFA teams will compete in a quiz show format to demonstrate their knowledge of farm safety and health hazards and recommended practices. The quiz bowl also enables participants to increase their leadership and public-speaking skills, according to Dennis Murphy, farm safety specialist and Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Safety and Health.
"The quiz bowl helps young people learn about hazards and safety on farms in a fun way," said Murphy. "The kids can enjoy friendly competition while learning information that they can use for the rest of their lives. Teens answer questions covering many farm-safety issues, such as safety with tractors, mowers and other farm machinery, child safety, first aid, animal care and disease control."
Penn State plays important role at Farm Show
Each year, more than 150 faculty, county extension educators and staff from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences participate in the Farm Show as committee chairs and members, exhibit personnel, publicity staff and judging coordinators for competitions from beef cattle and poultry to maple products and mushrooms.
The Pennsylvania Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural event in America, with 24 acres under roof, spread throughout 11 buildings including three arenas. Farm show officials expect more than 400,000 spectators, some 8,000 animals, 13,000 competitive exhibits and nearly 300 commercial exhibitors at the eight-day event. More than $465,000 in premiums will be offered to competitive exhibitors.
The show is held at the Farm Show Complex and Expo Center, at the corner of Cameron and Maclay streets in Harrisburg, just off exit 67 of Interstate 81. Hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Jan. 9-15, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 16. Admission is free and parking is $5. For more information, visit online.
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Last Updated November 18, 2010