The seven faculty members at Tidewater AREC have combined responsibilities for research and Extension. These joint appointments are complementary. Extension education interaction with producers, Extension Agents, consultants, and agribusiness people enhances the scientists’ understanding of issues and problems that may be addressed through applied research projects, and new information generated through research programs can be extended to these same people efficiently through Extension programs. The Tidewater AREC faculty members maintain a close working relationship with Virginia Cooperative Extension Agents and provide technical support to their programs. A variety of educational programs and resources are employed to achieve the Tidewater AREC Extension education mission.
Example Extension programs include:
- Educational crop tours and field days for producers, Extension Agents, crop consultants and agribusiness representatives
- Internet based crop advisories such as the Peanut/Cotton InfoNet and the Virginia Ag Pest and Crop Advisory
- In-service education and update programs for agricultural Extension Agents
- On-farm crop and livestock demonstration projects and research trials
- Producer seminars and educational meetings
- Agricultural education programs and field days for adults and youth from the non-farm public
- Swine producer certification programs in quality assurance and waste management
- Publication and distribution of crop production guides for cotton and peanuts
- Preparation of electronic and hard copy Extension education publications on specific topics in field crop production and swine management
- Electronic and hard copy publication of variety trial results for soybeans and peanuts
- Major contributions to field crop recommendations in Virginia Tech’s pest management guides
- Service as educational and technical advisors to selected Virginia commodity associations and boards
- Plant disease and insect diagnostic services are available for clientele
Field Crop Entomology - Sally Taylor
New practices, research finds and pest management recommendations are extended to clientele through a variety of media and methods. In-season field tours, on-farm trials and demonstrations, and research plot focus groups are used to provide visual and hands-on exposure to new pest management practices. Publications, news articles and weekly e-mail pest advisories are delivered via the Virginia Ag Pest and Crop Advisory. Insect pest and insecticide control recommendations are provided via several annually updated crop production guides.
Field Crop Plant Pathology - Hillary Mehl
The extension plant pathology program works with scientists, growers, and industry in Virginia and the surrounding region to solve persistent and emerging plant disease problems impacting field crops including cotton, peanut, soybean, corn, and small grains. The primary goal is to identify and implement novel, cost-effective, and environmentally sound strategies to prevent or control diseases in field crops and to deliver educational programs responsive to the needs of stakeholders in Virginia and beyond.
Peanut Variety Evaluation and Crop Physiology - Maria Balota
The primary extension goal is to maintain agricultural profitability through selection and use of the highest yielding and water-use efficient varieties of peanut and sorghum. Another emphasis of this program is to help growers understand peanut maturity and optimum harvest time throughout the Virginia peanut growing area. This program helps growers to determine each year the time and order of harvesting their peanut fields for reduced yield loss to pod broken off.
Agronomics - William Frame and David Holshouser
The primary goal of extension agronomists is to extend agronomic knowledge and understanding to others by observing current practices and listening to concerns, improving the meaning and application of and simplifying scientific principles and research, and guiding the implementation of improved production practices through education and demonstration so to change behavior that leads to profitable and environmentally responsible agriculture. Information is disseminated of new information and management practices is through traditional (Extension publications) and new technologies (social media: Facebook, Twitter) to appropriate clientele in the Commonwealth.
Swine Physiology, Reproduction, and Management - Mark Estienne
Changes in the structure of the Virginia swine industry parallel those nationwide. Although most swine in Virginia are produced by Smithfield Foods, Inc., the world’s largest hog producer and processor, there remain many farmers with small sow herds, and a large number of youth raising pigs for 4-H educational projects. The needs of this diverse clientele differ greatly however we strive to provide a program that has benefits throughout the pork industry. Major educational events conducted annually are the Virginia Pork Industry Conference, and the Small-Scale and Niche Market Pork Production Conference. The swine research and extension programs at Tidewater AREC are highly integrated. For example, Mark Estienne is heavily involved in the National Pork Board’s Pork Quality Assurance- Plus (PQA-Plus) program that has an extensive swine welfare education component. PQA-Plus certification of producers is required for swine to be processed at major packing plants in the U.S. Estienne regularly attend meetings of the Virginia Pork Industry Board, is the educational advisor for the Virginia Pork Industry Association, and is a member of the reproduction advisory committee that provides oversight for the Pork Information Gateway (PIG), which is the online outreach component of the US Pork Center of Excellence and is a community of practice in the national eXtension initiative.
Other Outreach Programs
Several faculty and staff at the Tidewater AREC are active in the Peanut Soil and Water Conservation District host Farm Day for the Suffolk Public Schools 2nd graders. This event gives the students the chance to come out to the farm and learn about agriculture and conserving our natural resources. Other outreach activities include newspaper articles on agricultural practices or pest updates.
The plant pathology program at Tidewater AREC operates a plant disease clinic that provides diagnosis of plant problems and recommendations for 100+ plant samples each year. The plant pathology program also operates the Peanut Disease Hotline which is a phone recording of the last effective spray dates for peanut leaf spot and Sclerotinia blight. This program also maintains the Peanut/Cotton Infonet that provides provides crop management information, updated daily during the growing season, to provide county agents and growers with the latest information at the beginning of each work day.
The entomology program operates the Virginia Ag Pest and Crop Advisory which was created to improve dissemination of IPM information. The advisory is a blog that compiles pest and crop updates from multiple authors and contributors, including IPM specialists. Titles and brief summaries of the blogs are automatically emailed once a week to the recipient list via Mail Chimp. The advantage of this system to the recipient is that it is a single-source provider of updated pest information - everything is in one location and users become accustomed to having it delivered at the same time each week.
Field day are one of the primary mechanisms of engaging stakeholders. The Tidewater AREC has an early season field day in early June and a pre-harvest plot tour in September to showcase research that is being conducted at the station. Faculty are also present at many of the commodity board meetings and often present research findings at these functions. At the latest Cotton Incorporated meeting, extension faculty presented proposals to growers and representatives of Cotton Incorporated and received feedback on those proposals.