Ag Progress Days research tours examine food production

July 24, 2008

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Whether you're a professional farmer or barely know your way around a supermarket, food production is important to everyone. So visitors to Penn State’s Ag Progress Days, Aug. 19-21 at Rock Springs, should appreciate free bus tours that will provide insights on the future of food production and natural resources in the Keystone State.

Leaving from the corn crib on Main Street at the Ag Progress Days site, the tours give a glimpse of what takes place at the 1,500-acre Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center. "This work is behind the answers and recommendations that we provide to our stakeholders," said Bruce McPheron, associate dean for research and graduate education in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

"Our university has a 150-year history of conducting research that brings the latest ideas and technologies together with pressing issues of how to produce safer and more nutritious foods in an environmentally responsible manner, and how to contribute to the well-being of rural, suburban and urban communities," McPheron said. "The agricultural research we do permits us to be the filter that helps answer these questions in the correct context. The science that underlies those answers is the key."

Visitors can get a broad look at agricultural field studies on the General Research Tour, 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 Lab. Buses leave daily at the top of the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tours run until 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The High-Tunnel Vegetable Production Tour is a 90-minute excursion that shows how using clear, plastic tunnels to grow vegetables, small fruits and cut flowers can be combined with other techniques to extend the state's growing season to almost 12 months. Buses leave daily at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

The Potato Research Tour is a two-hour update for commercial potato growers and small-scale vegetable producers on new potato varieties and disease control strategies. The bus leaves at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

The Apiary Tour is a 90-minute exploration of a Penn State honey bee research apiary to get a look into the mysterious, colonial life of the honey bee and to learn about Penn State research to address the crisis facing honey bees. Buses leave daily at 10:30 a.m.

On the Deer Research Center Tour (two hours), visitors will be able to view some of the deer at the facility and various antler displays. Discussions will focus on general deer biology and current research. Members of the Quality Deer Management Association will provide information. 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 at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday with an additional tour at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

On the one-hour Harvesting BTUs While Improving the Woodlot Tour, participants will examine trees labeled to show species, growth potential and present BTU value. Visitors will learn the economy and techniques of harvesting firewood while increasing the growth of the remaining trees. Buses to this walking tour will leave daily at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m., with additional tours at 4 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Switchgrass for Bioenergy Tour (75 minutes) presented by the USDA's Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit will look into growing switchgrass for renewable fuels. Long-term research sites, herbicide control plots and variety trials will be highlighted. Tours are held daily at 1:30 p.m.

The Basic Conservation Systems tour (60 minutes) will help visitors understand how implementing basic conservation practices on the farm and in the backyard can improve and protect local watersheds and the Chesapeake Bay. This tour will include hands-on children's activities. Buses depart daily at noon and 3 p.m.

The Stream Corridor Management and Riparian Buffers tour is a one-hour look at how a riparian buffer improves community water quality, the benefits of forested and grassed riparian buffers and how to install and maintain them. Buses leave daily at 11:30 a.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. 19; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 20; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 21. Admission and parking are free. For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days Web site at

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Last Updated May 18, 2012