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Week 6: Sent out Topic 1 and Cumulative Farm Reports

Topic 1 has officially been sent out for review and feedback to local teachers. Hopefully they send back some useful information and give us insight to what can be improved. This week we have been moving onto Topic 2 which discusses variability. I have begun by working on the PowerPoints. Essentially, I look at the lesson plan and create a PowerPoint to help guide the discussion and provide a point of reference for the students and teacher.


While I was away on vacation Jonny was able to acquire data for more soybean trials. He also gave me some grain data so I will be able to compare the method for cleaning soy versus grain. So far, I have noticed that the grain fields take significantly longer because the fields are much larger.

I have begun to look at the finished farm reports to learn about how information is shared with the farmers. Next week I will work on the cumulative reports so this will give me a greater background knowledge.

Week 5: Data Cleaning Finished and Topic 1 Almost Done

This week the precision agriculture curriculum has been mostly completed. I completed the standards and PowerPoints while Steve completed the lesson plans. These will be reviewed by Jeff and Quirine for final approval before Steve sends them to teachers who will give more feedback. The plan was to have a full topic completed before contacting the teachers to have a solid framework on the curriculum. The final topic one should be sent out by next week.


For the soybean reports, this week I finished the yield editing, batch, and headland removal for all of  data we have at this point. Hopefully while on vacation next week Jodi and Jacob will be able to collect more data from the farms or Jonny will be able to gain access to My John Deere to collect data from more farms that way.


Next week I will be on vacation.

Week 4: Presentation and Yield Editor Update

This week I started by working on understanding all of the facets of AFNR Standards which was explained to me by Jeff. We plan to make a flowchart for personal use to make selecting standards for each topic easier. The outline on their website is complicated for someone who is unfamiliar so having someone to walk through it with was helpful.


The PowerPoint for the first topic of the curriculum has begun to be made. We are condensing elements from the lesson plans to go along with the teacher’s outline. I expect that in future weeks the progress will move faster as we get the hang of creating the presentations and lesson plans. However, since this is the first topic for the curriculum it is moving a little slower than anticipated for the average topic.


This week I finished all of the yield editor cleaning and batch processing for all of the data we have for soybeans at the moment. I am anticipating more data to be collected from different farms so I can work on that when I get back from my vacation in two weeks. There are a few farms with either too little data or files in the wrong format, etc. I am hopeful that the resolvable issues will be sorted so I can continue chugging along with the data cleaning.

Week 3: Running Batch and PowerPoint Progress


This week I was able to acquire a desktop with access to the computer at Cornell which allows me to run batch from home. This has minimized the transfer of files between me and Jonny to only once the headland removal is complete. The part of running batch that was hardest for me was to ensure that the files were all named correctly and in the correct order in the Batch file as on the computer. As for work on the Mass Balance project, this week I finished reading the materials and will start on the PowerPoints next week, I believe.


I created three templates for the PowerPoint for the Precision Agriculture curriculum. Each concept had variations on color, blocks, and format. After meeting with Quirine, Jeff, and Steve we decided to select a muted blue color scheme and a block template as it is easy to recreate and is not distracting. We decided to use the title page from a different concept (pictured below) because we thought it had a nice dynamic movement. We discussed other elements for ease of viewing such as outlining the text boxes and pictures and using Times New Roman as the font because why change it if it works? This will be implemented next week when we begin to construct the actual PowerPoint for Topic 1.


We had Friday off for Juneteenth. I present to the entire team on the curriculum progress on Thursday next week.

Week 2: Headland Removal and AFNR Standards Introduction

This week I completed five fields of Yield Editor data cleaning and learned how to remove the headlands on the fields using the same program. The trickiest part of headland removal to me is making sure to save the four different files (a session and data file before and after the removal) per field. If not all four files are properly saved it becomes a burden to search through all the previously saved files and identify the missing one.


At this point I have been sufficiently caught up to the work done on the precision agriculture course thus far and have begun to make my own contributions. Due to the time constraint of working on this project half of Monday and on Fridays, Steve will be the main content creator and has created an outline the curriculum. I worked on creating content for labs, activities, and projects. Creating this material is more difficult than I had anticipated because there has to be a balance between data driven labs and interactive projects and activities. We are planning to use the same outline that Steve created with Jeff for the lectures for the activities. This will create a simple diagram which will be easy to read and will connect all of the interconnecting parts of the curriculum. The plan is to also create a PowerPoint template to use for the lectures and an outline for a template of lab documents. Having a template for the different aspects of the curriculum will make creating the AFNR standards and filling out the content easier.


Agriculture Food and Natural Resources (AFNR) Standards are guidelines that are applied to a curriculum to show the benefits of the course to the school, teachers, and state. They are meant to build up as you move through the course; therefore, there should be minimal overlap. The standards work through different pathways such as ‘Plant Systems Career Pathways’ then through performance indicators then sample measurements.

Week One: Introduction and Yield Editor

Monday Morning began with a meeting between the entire team where we discussed the work that is expected to be completed within the next week and what was completed the previous week. This meeting happens every Monday and Thursday. There are also presentations to catch up on different projects on a deeper level from different team members during the meetings. The presentations also facilitate a discussion and allow for feedback on the topic being presented.

As a new addition I was unfamiliar with the previous work from the team, so I caught up on the work that was done on the precision agriculture curriculum thus far and on the whole farm mass balance. I began working my way through all the fact sheets, featured articles and links on the NMSP website.

For the soybean trials, I was introduced to the Yield Editor program and began to learn how to use the features on it. This was trickier than I had anticipated, but I expect with practice I will be able to complete a farm with ease. There were setbacks that came along with not having access to the lab and computers because of WIFI availability and having a MacBook which is not compatible with the Yield Editor program. Thankfully, I was able to get my hands on an old PC laptop that belongs to one of the other members on the team.

Something Different and Back to School

It is hard to believe that summer break has come to an end already, and with that so has my internship at Edgewood Farms, LLC.  My last couple days working with the Phelps family was a little change of pace from the normal agronomy work I did the majority of the summer.  Three of my last four days at Edgewood consisted of preparing for the 2020 season.  Unfortunately, this prep consisted of brush hogging all the organic land that was not able to be planted this spring and had been over run by weeds.  My very last day I was excited about because it was something that I am very familiar with given that I come from a cow-calf farm.  My boss, Clayton and I left the farm at 5:30 AM to make the three-hour road trip to Norwich, NY to sort out and load up feeder steers that he was purchasing from an elderly heart surgeon who was selling all his animals.  When we arrived at the farm we meet with Phil Trowbridge and his intern, Liz.  The first task was to separate all the steers out of a group of over 150 for us to take back to Groveland.  After upon completion of that, we sorted out a couple animals we didn’t want and loaded all 70 steers onto a tractor trailer.  When the trailer was loaded up and on the road, we helped Phil select 25 of the best looking heifers that he had found a home for along with his bull he had sold to this retiring farmer.  Even though the last day wasn’t agronomy related it was something I truly enjoyed and the long car ride gave Clayton and me a chance to recap on the summer and talk about possible opportunities in the future.

Crop Scouting and Planting Cover Crops

The past couple weeks have been pretty routine at Edgewood.  I have spent much of my time scouting the farms corn, soybeans, and dry beans.  When I was not scouting the crops, I was likely planting oats as a cover crop in all the fields that we unable to be planted this spring due to the extremely wet conditions we experienced.

Scouting has been relatively uneventful lately however; I suppose no news is good news when you are looking for insects and diseases.  All the time I spent walking through thousands of acres of corn I found no diseases and only insect pest I found was a patch of western bean cutworm eggs.  The eggs are often found on the top side of the upper most leaves and as they hatch the larva quickly move down to the ear, where they can cause significant damage.  An infestation of one cutworm per ear of corn can result in a yield loss of roughly 4% and up to 30-40% if there are several worms per ear.  It is recommended that an insecticide be applied if ~5% of the corn plants have either eggs or larva present.  Luckily, we never reached a threshold where treatment was necessary.

In dry beans and soybeans, the most common pest found was the red-headed flea beetle.  These insects eat the leaves of the plants and the threshold for treatment is based on percent defoliation and stage of the beans.  According to North Dakota State University, the action threshold is as follows: 30% defoliation in vegetative stages, 15% in bloom to pod-fill stages, and 25% in pod-fill to maturity stages.  The flea beetles in our fields didn’t cause anywhere near this amount of damage so again, like the cutworms in corn, treatment was not needed.

Appley Ever After

Hey y’all, welcome back to the (last) blog. Today I wanted to wrap up my experience at FREC and summarize what I learned.

During my time at FREC, I learned the most about general orchard maintenance, such as different pruning methods, tree training methods, how many fruit you should thin down to, and I also learned how to recognize different plant diseases and insect damages. My favorites to find and look at are Plum Curculio damage in apples and Stink Bug gummosis in peaches. I will post pictures below.

In addition, one of my favorite things to do was to test the ripeness of apples with starch iodine. Unfortunately I only got to do this a couple of times because it’s not apple season, but I still had fun the two times that I did do it. The testing was for a color experiment in Gala. I will put pictures of it below. The pictures below are the same treatment, but about a few days apart.

Unfortunately, I was only able to harvest apples once, on my last day. I wish that I had been able to stay there all through apple harvest because that seems so fascinating to me. This is mainly because I would then be able to help with the experiment that Dr. Schupp gave Megan and me. Further, I wished that I was able to work in all of the departments at FREC (entomology, plant pathology, and precision agriculture) because I take interest in all of those areas as well.

I had so much fun at FREC this summer. Most days, it seemed like just hard work, but overall it was very rewarding. I got to do so many cool things like identifying bugs, picking fruit, pressure testing apples and pears, and many other things. Further, I had a fun time writing this blog, it really helped me reflect on my experience at FREC. It helped solidify the knowledge that I gained working there.

Week Ten: Road Trip to North Country

This week I got to spend even more time with extension agents in the field! I drove up to North Country to spend some time with Mike Hunter, a Field Crops Specialist with the CCE North Country Regional Ag Team. Mike led a field day that morning at some of his soybean herbicide plots. Although most weeds are still pretty well controlled by glyphosate, Mike is working hard to develop strategies for farmers to deal with the relatively new challenges presented by herbicide resistant weeds. Tall waterhemp, Palmer amaranth, and glyphosate-resistant marestail are all large threats to crop production in this region of New York State.

Marestail in soybean field

Mike took me out to a couple of farmer’s fields to look for possible signs of herbicide-resistant weeds. This soybean field has already been sprayed with glyphosate, but the marestail is is rampant! If the marestail goes to seed, it will be very difficult to control here for years to come.

Maintaining good relationships with local farmers is also an important part of Mike’s work. He has to be able to communicate the results of his own test plots along with other new science in a way that makes sense and is applicable to each farmer that he works with. One example of this is Reed Haven Farms. The farm produces around 1200 acres of crops to feed their dairy herd. Getting to tour their farm gave me an opportunity to see how technology and science can help farms of all sizes.

Alleyway and cows

At Reed Haven, most of the cows are milked by robotic milkers. This cuts down on long term labor costs and volatility, allowing the farmers to focus more on other management aspects of the farm. Pictured here, an alleyway has also been neatly swept by a robotic feed-pusher.

Using laser guidance to attach milk cups to the cow, the robotic milker lowers stress for animals and has helped the farm achieve low somatic cell counts. The cow is able to quickly and comfortably be milked out on her own schedule. Tons of data gets collected from each cow, including the number of chews per day as well as the amount of milk delivered from each quarter of the udder. I posted a video of the milker in action below. The farm currently has 3 milking robots, with the infrastructure in place to add 2 more milkers to their main barn soon.

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