Lessons from a county agents meeting

Lessons from a county agents meeting
Source: Texas A&M AgirLife Extension

This past week I was in Galveston attending the annual Agricultural Agents Professional Improvement Conference. It is a professional association that rotates meetings around the state and has professional improvement seminars.

I always learn much from these events and thought it may be of interest to others.

First, it must be said that I most enjoy meeting folks from across the state who support the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. On Tuesday night we recognized six Extension supporters. These men and women are truly what makes educational programming successful.

My favorite quote came from an award winner that said, “Take a look around and see everything that society has accomplished. Then realize we can do all these things only because of a mere six inches of topsoil and an occasional rainfall.” Wise words indeed.

In a field trip touring the Galveston ship channel, I learned the muddy waters surrounding Galveston are considered beneficial by local commercial fishers. The muddy water is discharged from the Mississippi River. As the river ends in the ocean the currents of the Gulf run counter-clockwise, bringing the sediment and nutrient-rich water west towards Galveston. And it is from this nutrient rich water is what grows shrimp and other commercially harvested fish.

Rice is a major crop of the coastal plains --and that comes as no surprise. What is interesting is that Texas usually ranks as the nation's fourth or fifth highest producing rice-growing state, producing about 7 percent of the nation's supply.

One dilemma rice which farmers wish they could change is our nations perspective of rice. While other countries see rice as a main dish or an important part of the plate, most of our rice is served as a base on which to serve the protein portion of the meal.

Technology is of course a part of what we need to keep up with these days. But finding a good educational website that isn’t trying to sell something or is from another part of the country is tough. Consider these website gems. First is aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu. This is a fantastic site that I frequently use for myself and for questions I get. There are quite a number of sources for vegetable gardeners (both backyard and commercial folks). Also, on that site, you can learn worlds about growing fruits and nuts.

Go to the landscaping tab at aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and you’ll find a good bit about best practices and even a list of plants that should do quite well in our part of the state.

Finding sites that help us identify weeds or other unknown plants is a challenge. Rangeplants.tamu.edu is a good site for that. Be sure to go to the “help-identify-my-plant” for a thorough list.

Problems with your lawn? Aggieturf.tamu.edu may fit the bill. This site is often underutilized even by turf professionals.

Got bugs to identify? There are three locations that come highly recommended: texashighplainsinsects.net, insectimages.org or ipmimages.org are all great sites. IPM stands for integrated pest management. IPM is a methodology of using least toxic approaches first to control insects.

Last is an iPhone app that I’ve been leery of, quite honestly. I was first introduced to “Plant snap” about a year ago by our youth agent trying to beat me in plant identification. The app performed poorly then. The experts assured us that it had come a long way in the past year and I’m looking forward to using it.

Next year, the Texas County Agricultural Agents Association will be meeting in Amarillo! Though, that may be as dissimilar as one can get from East Texas, I look forward to meeting new people and learning more that I can bring home.

Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu.