Powell and Covington Recognized for Starting Planter University

Ag engineers receive award for innovation during extension Agriculture and Natural Resources conference

November 17, 2023, 1:20 pm | Chris Kick

AMES, Iowa – Two members of the Digital Ag Innovation Lab at Iowa State University were recently recognized for creating a new planter-based education program for the crop industry.

Ben Covington and Levi Powell, both agricultural engineers, were the masterminds behind “Planter University.” First offered in 2022, the program saw initial success and was offered again in 2023 and will return with a new program Feb. 5-9, 2024.

Levi Powell, Jay Harmon, and Ben Covington posing with award.Planter University is a brand-neutral learning opportunity that helps farmers and the industry better understand and optimize their planting equipment.

For their effort, Covington and Powell were awarded the Programming Innovation Award during the annual Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources professional development conference, Oct. 17 in Ames.

The two were nominated for the award by field agronomist Meaghan Anderson and Rebecca Vittetoe. Both are also instructors for Planter University.

“Ben and Levi are the epitome of innovation in extension and outreach educational programming,” said Anderson. “Even without a direct extension and outreach appointment, these two worked with the crops team to meet the needs of Iowa farmers and ag service providers.”

With greater variability in weather, farmers are planting their crops in a shorter window than ever before, which has moved many farmers toward larger equipment and a heavier reliance on technology, making planter optimization all the more important.

Collaborating with the crops team, Covington and Powell provided key expertise to Planter University, a one-day workshop offered in five locations around Iowa that provided hands-on training for farmers and their advisers that focused on maintenance, technology and important setup considerations for adjusting planters to each field’s environment.

Over 90% of survey respondents felt like they had a high or very high ability to make numerous planter adjustments that would improve crop emergence, plant stand, and ultimately, yield after attending the workshop.

“Their expertise and creativity brought a new kind of program to life that was needed and well-received by our clientele,” said Rebecca Vittetoe.

Learn more about the 2024 Planter University and register for one of the sessions at: https://www.aep.iastate.edu/planter/

Shareable photo and caption: Programming Innovation Award presentation -- Jay Harmon (center), associate dean in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director for agriculture and natural resources with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, presented the Programming Innovation Award to Levi Powell (left) and Ben Covington (right).

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