Sometimes the best conversations happen before or after a meeting's official agenda. Or--as is often the case in Extension--during a meal of a workshop or field day. In sharing a meal with producers, Extension Educator Jose Hernandez learns what's on their minds.
"They ask, 'What's the latest research?' Or, 'Have you heard about this product?' We compare notes," he said.
Jose's work in manure management is of great interest to farmers who understand that manure is valuable. It enriches the soil with nutrients critical to maximize yield, but it also needs to be handled and applied with care to minimize the impact on surface water.
Jose Hernandez at Borlaug Hall soil display.
"Farmers recognize their activities impact the environment. Farmers are interested. It's not just scientists or a segment of people. They are always looking for ways to improve. You can sense that."
Jose is well positioned to provide education to producers. His formative years were spent on his family's banana farm in Costa Rica. And early in his career he worked with the renowned CFANS professor and Extension Specialist Pierre Robert, who is known as the father of precision agriculture.
"It was an amazing experience to work with Pierre and to be on the cutting edge in what was happening nationally and internationally in the field," said Jose.
One of the principles Pierre conceived is "farming by soil." This approach emphasizes protecting and maximizing soil health. Jose encourages farmers to make the most informed management decisions possible, which starts with collecting baseline information from manure and soil tests.
Jose's work bridges the crops and livestock program areas. In the winter, he is sometimes traveling several days a week to speak at courses or workshops. In the summer he enjoys collaborating on research projects and speaking at workshops and field days. In the fall, he's often conducting research. All year he is developing relationships with farmers and talking about best management practices.
"Gathering more information empowers you to make better management decisions," said Jose. "It's all about where manure is applied; ninety percent of the pollution comes from ten percent of the land. There are critical zones that require proper care."
That's precision. It's all about applying manure in the right place at the right time.