Cliff Blessing has been coming to Weed Science Field Days since 1989, back when they were a component of the larger Farm Home Field Day held on the University of Delaware’s Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown. Blessing joined the Delaware Department of Agriculture that same year “when they drafted me to work two days a week,” he recalls. Blessing’s farm in Harrington grows corn, soybean, lima beans, peas, sweet corn, wheat and barley. Since working for the DDA, Blessing has left the general operation of the 2500 acre family farm to his grandson Dale while he works with DDA’s noxious weed program.
“This is the coolest day I can remember,” said Blessing, who recalls a tradition of much hotter field tours. Blessing was one of more than 60 growers, pesticide applicators, crop advisers and agricultural professionals from Maryland and Delaware who attended the June 27 session to obtain new information on various trial results and best practices in crop and weed management.In addition, attendees could receive continuing education credits for Delaware and Maryland for pesticide applicators and Certified Crop Advisers. are conveyed to those who attend the day’s tours. The weather cooperated with a perfect day to examine trial results, take resource photographs and exchange information with others in the ag community.
Weed Science Field Day is organized by Mark VanGessel, University of Delaware extension specialist and professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and his team of weed science researchers, Barbara Scott and Quintin Johnson and summer students and interns.
Throughout the year UD Extension and research staff conducts unbiased studies on more than 70 trials (which amount to more than 700 comparisons) most are devoted to key agronomic crops, and evaluate their effectiveness of weed management. Chemical, mechanical and cultural practices are evaluated. Their findings are published in an annual guide of trial results that is made available to attendees and the results serve as the basis for educational programs throughout the year and provide the experience to answer questions from farmers and the agricultural industry.
This year, two new weeds, Palmer Amaranth, Amaranthus palmeri and Texas panicum, Panicum texanum, have been added to Delaware’s noxious weed list along with johnsongrass, Sorghum halepense, Canada thistle,Cirsium arvense, bucurmber, Sicyos angulatus and giant ragweed, Ambrosia trifida.
The goal of Weed Science Field Day is to deliver the latest research to the agricultural community. Communication to the industry is a key component in Delaware’s continued agronomic success and is part of Cooperative Extension’s outreach mission. Many of the plots are identified by signage indicating the particular study and methodology.
At the Thurman G. Adams Research Farm, trials are conducted with the preemergence and post emergence herbicides to carefully evaluate their effectiveness and their usefulness in Delaware crops. “We have to determine if it has a fit for us in Delaware,” says VanGessel on the application of new products.
Timing of applications is crucial. VanGessel toured no-till soybean trials and introduced system trials using reduced tillage organic grain production with a three- year rotation of field corn, soybeans & winter wheat. Tilling only once a year, the trials relies on cover crops with high- residue cultivation for weed control. It is a joint project with Penn State , USDA, and NC State.
Also featured was a processing vegetable trial with a range of management strategies including conventional tillage growing many- on one extreme placing reliance on legume crops such as, lima beans, snap beans, soybeans in the rotation and in the other extreme using little or no tillage with range of grain crops. Soil health, crop growth and weed control is evaluated in this trial. The tour then moved onto corn trials.
Blessing enjoyed the information and the camaraderie of Weed Field Day. As the self-described oldest employee at DDA, Blessing, age 87, plans to retire this year from government service, but not from farming. He intends to return to the family business, Water Way Farms and keep an eye on things from an air conditioned office. No doubt, future participation at events like Weed Science Field Day will be on his active calendar. ” Cooperative Extension does a lot to help keep us in the know. They show us what to do.” Blessing says. “It gives us a lot to go by.”