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Visit Ag Progress Days to learn about all things agriculture

Visitors learn about the ROC hay merger from CNY Farm Supply at the 2016 Ag Progress Days.
Visitors learn about the ROC hay merger from CNY Farm Supply at the 2016 Ag Progress Days. Centre Daily Times, file

I recently stopped by Rinaldo’s Barber shop and had a lively conversation with Becky and Kathy, two wonderful barbers, about gardening. I mentioned that Penn State’s Ag Progress Days was coming up soon and they might want to consider attending. Ag Progress Days had certainly grown over the years into what I consider the premier outdoor agricultural exposition on the East Coast.

If you want to see the latest in farm machinery, countless number of educational exhibits on a wide range of topics, tons of commercial exhibitors, plus eat some excellent food, this is the place to go.

Ag Progress Days will be held this year from Tuesday-Thursday. The event is held annually at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs in Ferguson Township, nine miles southwest of State College on Route 45.

Having been involved in Ag Progress Days for more than 20 years, I can guarantee that there is plenty to see and learn about at the event, and the nice thing it is free. In addition to a large array of farm equipment there are 45 acres of fields for machinery demonstrations and 70 acres for free parking. Bus tours of the Penn State research facilities take you through 400-500 more acres where you will observe research in action, such as the Penn State High Tunnel Research and Educational Facility, the largest facility of its type in the United States. High tunnels have become an integral production technology used throughout the state of Pennsylvania and around the country for the production of small fruits, vegetables and flowers. In addition there are other cutting edge research projects located at the entomology, horticulture, plant pathology and agronomy farms.

One new demonstration this year is the Small Scale Farming Equipment Display and Vegetable Demonstration plot. Vegetable growers will be interested in the new display focusing on how beds are pulled and covered with plastic, the laying and removal of plastic mulch as well as irrigation techniques. Equipment will show how transplants are inserted in raised beds and maintained. The plot is located on Demo Alley at the end of West 10 and 11th streets. Visit the Vegetable Tent to meet with exhibitors providing this type of equipment.

The Butterfly Tent is a place where you will visit the “Painted Ladies” native species, provided by the Entomology Department. The Butterfly Tent is located beside the Youth Building on West 8th Street. There are numerous exhibits on a wide range of topics such as “Battling the Spotted Lanternfly” a new invasive insect pests and “Potential of Industrial Hemp in Pennsylvania.” Both of these exhibits are located at the College of Agriculture’s Exhibit Building.

Research tours have been a mainstay of the Ag Progress Days program for many years and this year there is a new “Hopyard Research Tour” for those that want to learn all about growing hops. There will be modified tours of the Research Farms; Managing Equine and Livestock Pastures and Improving Soil Health Through Adaptive Grazing and Diverse Cover; a Dairy Beef Feedlot Tour and a Woodlot Management Tour. For many years, my colleague Mike Orzolek and I conducted the High Tunnel Research Tour highlighting research on vegetables, small fruits and cut flowers. This year on the tour you will see first hand cutting edge research into using high tunnels for the production of strawberries and red raspberries guided by Kathy Demchak, our excellent Penn State small fruit extension associate and her able colleagues.

After all the touring and viewing I am sure that you will have worked up a tremendous appetite so make sure to avail yourselves of the wide range of food choices. I assured Kathy and Becky that they will thoroughly enjoy themselves. See you there!

Bill Lamont is a professor emeritus in the department of plant science at Penn State and can be reached by e-mail at wlamont@psu.edu.