UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Motorists traveling on state Route 45 about 4 miles west of Pine Grove Mills in Centre County may have noticed equipment, buildings, signage and other clues that indicate the acreage on both sides of the road is not typical farmland.
What they are seeing is Penn State’s Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center, a more than 2,000-acre facility where researchers in the College of Agricultural Sciences carry out field studies looking at technologies and best practices in farming, conservation and natural resources. The center also is home to the university’s annual Ag Progress Days expo — to be held this year Aug. 13-15 — which provides visitors an opportunity to get a closer view of this agricultural research via bus tours of the center.
All Ag Progress Days tours are free but require tickets, which can be obtained at the departure point at the corn crib near the top of Main Street at the show site. The tours, many of which involve some walking or standing, include the following:
• Russell Larson Research Center Farms (1 hour). See each of the farms at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center. Horticulture, agronomy, plant pathology and entomology farm managers will answer visitors’ questions and present a brief overview of the farm history, current research and student involvement. The tour leaves at 11 a.m. daily, with additional tours at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
• Hops Research (1 hour). Pennsylvania’s growing brewing industry generates $1.9 billion for the state’s economy, and that also means increased demand for locally grown hops, one of the key ingredients in beer-making. Beer enthusiasts, brewers and farmers looking for a new source of income can visit Penn State’s hopyard, learn about efforts to evaluate hops varieties for yield and quality characteristics, and see equipment used in small-scale hops production. The tour leaves at 1 p.m. daily, preceded by a hops research presentation at noon on the show grounds (ask at the Information Booth for the location).
• High Tunnel Research and Extension Facility (2 hours). High tunnels are inexpensive structures used for extending the growing season and improving yields and quality of vegetables, berries and cut flowers. See strawberries, raspberries and vegetables growing in containers in 15 tunnels, with five different types of plastics to better manage plant growth, temperatures and pests. The tour is offered at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. daily.
• Managing Livestock Pastures with Alternative Forages (1.5 hours). Producers will gain an understanding of paddock fencing/watering system components, field practices and evaluation of cover crop mixes by looking at root structure and soil health indicators. High stock density grazing will be demonstrated with a small herd of black angus cattle, and a rainfall simulator demonstration will illustrate soil health principles for both cropping and livestock operations. Buses leave at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, and 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
• Managing Equine Pastures and Drylots (1.5 hours). This tour features a demonstration using horses with hands-on activities in equine pastures. Learn about the do’s and don’ts of sacrifice areas, the tools needed to help improve equine operations, grass and weed identification, innovative pasture methods, and dry lot design for horses on limited acreage. The tour will depart at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, and 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
• Multifunctional Stream Buffers and Native Grasses (1 hour). Learn how planting and maintaining trees, shrubs and grasses to create a multifunctional stream buffer can improve water quality, wildlife and pollinator habitat, livestock health, and property value, while providing edible or medicinal plants. Demonstration livestock practices such as fencing and stream crossings will be on display. This tour leaves at 11:30 a.m. daily.
• Forest Management: Woods and Wildlife (1.5 hours). Explore the Penn State Demonstration Forest and gain valuable insights into how woods are managed for timber production, wildlife habitat, water quality, recreational activities, research and education. Forestry and wildlife professionals will be on hand to answer questions. The tour leaves at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily.
• Habitat Management for Deer and Other Wildlife (1.5 hours). See how food plots and natural habitat management practices used on public or private property as part of a Quality Deer Management System can improve habitat for many wildlife species while producing healthier and larger deer. Buses leave at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. daily, with an additional tour at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
• Strategies for Improving Dairy Cropping Systems (2 hours). Agronomists, entomologists and dairy scientists have evaluated crop rotations, nutrient management, pest management and dairy cow feed management to reduce inputs and environmental impact, adapt to weather challenges, and enhance farm production and profitability. This tour highlights lessons learned from this 10-year, multidisciplinary research project. This tour departs at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.
• Beef Feedlot (1 hour). This tour will focus on the benefits and sustainability of finishing steers fed corn-based diets for beef production. Visitors can see cattle in a feedlot that have been fed high-grain diets and can ask Penn State Extension and Pennsylvania Beef Council experts and cattle buyers questions about implants, feed efficiency and other topics. Buses leave at 2 p.m. Tuesday, 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Wednesday, and 10 a.m. Thursday.
Sponsored by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 13; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 14; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 15. Admission and parking are free.
For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website. Twitter users can find and share information about the event by using the hashtag #agprogressdays, and the event also can be found on Facebook (@AgProgressDays).