Conversations Key to Iowa State Exhibits at 2012 Farm Progress Show

AMES, Iowa — A summer of extreme heat and drought did not deter Farm Progress Show visitors interested in exploring the ways soil, water, plants and people influence the landscape — specifically the interactions between soil and water. Displays at the Iowa State University building at the 2012 Farm Progress Show set the stage for conversations and idea sharing between visitors and Iowa State University experts and students.

One popular area in the Iowa State building was the Ask the Experts station staffed by extension agronomists, pathologists, entomologists, engineers and economists. Another was the soil cores display area.

Farmer and farm profiles within the soil core display gave visitors much to ponder as they talked with hosting soil scientists. It was common to hear Lee Burras, agronomy professor, say, “Soil is a dynamic entity — dynamic in space (where it is in the state) and time (over a period of years).” Tom Fenton, agronomy professor emeritus, often explained that you can’t judge a soil by its color, saying there is a lot of variability in soil due to management and use over time. The students working with the display eagerly added more details to the conversations.

Throughout the run of the show crowds surrounded the stream table hosted by Tom Isenhart, ISU Natural Resource Ecology and Management associate professor, and his students. Visitors often reached in and adjusted table elements to change how much and how fast the water flowed to better understand these keys to friendly water ways.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited the Iowa State building on Thursday, Aug. 30, and engaged in conversation at several displays, including the soil cores and stream table. Rick Cruse, agronomy professor, held his attention and drew some questions as they discussed various scenarios using the ground water model.

Allison Vincent, senior in environmental science, was demonstrating water’s flow in a watershed when Secretary Vilsack joined the group gathered at the stream table. Her responses to his questions prompted him to leave a note for her professor, “give her extra credit for the great work she is doing.” Iowa State University students played a key role in the building during the show, working shifts at the displays and information station, and connecting with visitors while discussing areas of interest.

Earlier, Vilsack recognized the Iowa State University–led national Annie’s Project during a news conference. He acknowledged Annie’s Project as a 2011 recipient of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant and a program of significance for women beginning farm careers. Annie’s Project and the Beginning Farmer Center staff shared program information at separate displays throughout the show.

Additional ISU Extension and Outreach specialists, including Jesse Randall, extension forester; Linda Naeve, extension value added ag specialist; Alison Robertson, corn pathologist; and Elwynn Taylor, extension climatologist, provided expertise at the Farm Progress Show in venues outside the Iowa State building. Watch their videos on the ISU Extension and Outreach YouTube channel For additional information on Iowa State building topics see resources listed at



PHOTO: Secretary Vilsack and Rich Cruse photo provided by Rod Swoboda, Wallaces Farmer.