Panhandle Extension professionals recognized for efforts |

Panhandle Extension professionals recognized for efforts

Excellence in Extension Awards were presented to five Nebraska Extension staff from the Panhandle during the Nebraska Extension Fall Conference in Kearney in November.

Cropping Systems Educator John Thomas, based in Alliance, was recognized for his impactful efforts to demonstrate and encourage dry bean growers to adopt direct (one-pass) harvest of dry beans. Thomas has been active, along with farmers, equipment dealers, and University of Nebraska Lincoln colleagues, in developing a direct-harvest system for western Nebraska.

Traditionally, Nebraska bean growers have harvested dry beans using a method with two or more steps, including windrowing swaths of beans and making a second pass with a combine. Direct harvest eliminates swathing and windrowing. With proper techniques and equipment, direct harvest can reduce field loss, increase harvested yield, reduce soil disturbance and leave more bean residue in the field.

Working with now-retired researchers John Smith and Robert Wilson from the Panhandle Research and Extension Center, Thomas developed an Extension Circular “Direct Harvest of Dry Edible Beans.” The percent of Nebraska dry bean acreage that is direct harvested has increased, from less than 5 percent in 2012 to about 40 percent in 2015.

Ag Economist Jessica Groskopf, Extension educators Gary Stone and John Thomas, and communications associate Dave Ostdiek were recognized for their engagement efforts in assisting with the recovery from the tunnel collapse and canal breach on the Goshen-Gering Fort Laramie irrigation canal. Also recognized as part of the team effort was Lisa Jasa, who is based in Lincoln and is editor of Nebraska Extension’s CropWatch website.

The July 17 tunnel collapse near Fort Laramie, Wyo., caused a major breach of the canal bank and curtailed water deliveries for 43 days to over 107,000 acres in Nebraska and Wyoming. Nebraska and Wyoming Extension personnel estimated the direct economic impact to the area would be $89 million.

In cooperation with Extension colleagues in Wyoming, the Nebraska team helped host public stakeholder meetings in the affected areas, providing several hundred stakeholders with the most current information and planning. The Panhandle Center hosted a web page at, dedicated to providing information and resources related to the irrigation crisis. In addition, CropWatch posted content provided by the Nebraska Extension team on the canal situation.

Groskopf and Dryland Cropping Systems Specialist Cody Creech also were members of the Soybean Management Field Days team, which was recognized for partnering with the Nebraska Soybean Board for the past 22 years to provide a turnkey research and extension educational experience. Each year, four farm operators, representing different soybean growing regions in Nebraska, are selected to host a Soybean Management Field Day site.

Faculty are engaged in the development and implementation of field research at these four sites. Following harvest of the replicated plots, each faculty member has the results analyzed and a written summary is published in a booklet entitled “Soybean Management Field Days – Research Update.”