More than a century and a half ago, Penn State got its start as an agricultural school.
Since then, the school’s name has changed — from the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania — but it still has a prominent College of Agricultural Sciences.
Research at that college will be on display this week at Penn State Ag Progress Days, which kicks off today and runs through Thursday.
The annual three-day event at the Russell E. Larson Ag Research Center on state Route 45 gives novices and experts a chance to find out about everything ag-related. Think stink bug research, high-tech farm equipment demonstrations, horse shows, crop research and lots of food.
This year’s event also includes a cake-cutting ceremony at the invitation-only Government and Industry Day lunch Wednesday to mark the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, which led to the creation of land-grant colleges. Penn State, founded in 1855, became Pennsylvania’s sole land-grant university in 1863.
“The Morrill Act led to scientific breakthroughs that would enable a food-production system that’s the envy of the world, while establishing a unique, enduring and powerful engine for education and progress,” said Bruce McPheron, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences.
Here are some of the highlights of this year’s Ag Progress Days.
Penn State faculty will be on hand to answer questions and give presentations on their research in topics including natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, energy conservation, biofuels and new developments in ag equipment.
Protecting private water supplies from gas drilling will be the focus of a presentation today at 11 a.m. Information will be available at the Marcellus Center throughout the event.
Field demonstrations of the latest equipment will be held during the event. That includes a multitasking cover-crop interseeder that Penn State scientists developed. According to the college, it could allow farmers to make one trip across a field rather than the three needed now.
An eight-horse hitch of Belgian draft horses will be among the highlights of this year’s Equine Experience, which also includes clinics, demonstrations, informational displays and lectures.
Suzanne Myers, owner of Next Level Horsemanship in Centre County, will show riders how to better understand their horses on Wednesday. The state police mounted patrol will give demonstrations on using horses for crowd control, and volunteers with the Capital Area Therapeutic Riding Association will show miniature horses.
Penn State faculty and staff will be at the Equine Arena to answer questions and provide information all three days.
Free tours that offer visitors a look at the latest in agricultural research and best practices leave throughout the day from the corn crib at the top of Main Street, which is also where you get tickets.
New this year are tours of the Arboretum at Penn State, a lesson on producing corn and soybean crops with high yields and a look at growing woody crops that can be turned into energy.
Other tours include a general research tour, a look at high tunnel research and a chance to find out about and see American chestnuts and the effort to restore them.
Visitors can check out a basketball-shooting robot that’s part of the 4-H robotics program. It’s the centennial for 4-H, which is focusing its activities on STEM education — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
4-Hers will also be leading a “flash mob” from 11:30 a.m. to noon Wednesday to encourage active, healthy living for young people.
Or, if bugs are your thing, visit the entomology exhibit where Rosie the tarantula will be on display. Looming wool from rabbit fur, taking a look at fungi through a microscope and hearing the hissing cockroach are also options for visitors.
Other kid-friendly exhibits at the show include a lesson in climbing a tree like an arborist, mini golf and the corn maze.
Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @AnneDanahy