Making A Difference in Our County
We're working hard for the citizens we serve. Here are some examples of successful projects from the past year:
LIVESTOCK FACILITY IMPROVEMENTS
The Berrien County Agriculture Center was built 30 years ago to provide space for youth to exhibit livestock. In 2008, Berrien County secured $26,000 to expand facilities. Since then the livestock program has grown, and the county now needs to improve infrastructure to accommodate 90 youth learning life skills and developing responsibility through animal projects. The county agent and the Berrien Youth Livestock Association (BYLA) met to discuss improving local livestock exhibition. Action items discussed included new scales, a shelter over the wash rack, weigh-in area, extra hog pens, show ring improvements and concrete under the pavilion. The BYLA earmarked dollars for these projects and asked Berrien County to subsidize. Over the past four years, fundraising dollars were used to purchase digital scales, add extra hog pens and improve the ring and pen system. The BYLA partnered with the county to split the construction cost of a shelter over the wash rack. Recently, Berrien County invested $12,000 to complete the concrete under the pavilion. Nearly $60,000 has been invested to improve the facility and livestock exhibition since 2008 via partnership with the county and the local livestock association. During that time, 600 youths have benefited from the improvements by participating in 16 local livestock shows. Funds are being raised for further advances, including a matching shelter for more covered pavilion space. One member states, “Ag Center advances have made it much more functional to exhibitors. The updates to the facilities and equipment shows that others see the value of youth livestock exhibition.”
IMPROVED FUSARIUM WILT MANAGEMENT
Fusarium wilt is a devastatingly aggressive watermelon disease. Although the disease is not necessarily more prevalent than other watermelon diseases, for the fields infected by the disease, it can be very problematic. Disease incidence has reached 50 percent or more in select fields, causing significant losses. Fungicide treatment, crop rotation and classic fumigation methods have suppressed the disease, at best, and other means of management, such as grafted varieties, are expensive. A more sustainable approach to managing fusarium wilt is needed. Fumigant trials were placed among various Berrien County growers to evaluate a new technique of fumigant application and compare it to grafted varieties and fungicide application. Local and area watermelon growers have witnessed an alarming amount of fusarium wilt incidences with the inability to acquire new land to rotate production. Since crop rotation is not feasible, other control methods must be obtained. Traditional techniques of fumigation have suppressed disease incidence inconsistently and are not affordable when considering marginal losses. New fumigation techniques proposed by other research needed to be explored. Research was directed in high watermelon production areas. Three side-by-side comparisons were observed in relation to other equal methods of control, such as grafted varieties and fungicide applications. After observing, there was an absolute side-by-side difference in the “new” technique as opposed to the classic fumigant application. Although the cost is typically expensive in practical management strategy, it was observed that this could be a promising method to salvage land populated by fusarium wilt.