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Head, Shoulders, Nematodes! Nematodes!

by Shaw nee Tichenor, County Extension Agent-Staff Chair, Sebastian County - May 18, 2023

Phioto collage of iLEAD II in Hope, AR

iLEAD II participant Shaw nee Tichenor reflects on the iLEAD seminar in held in Hope.

Our fifth face-to-face iLead session began at Southwest Research and Extension Center (SWREC) in Hope and ended at the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana. Our sessions included a variety of topics including: SWREC Tour on a “hay ride,” entomology research, nematology lab testing, animal science, visit UA Hope campus, conflict resolution, district directors panel, and making strawberry freezer jam!

Dr. Daniel Rivera, director of SWREC, opened our seminar with an inviting welcome to the station. Dr. Rivera did an overview of what the research SWREC provides: beef cattle, plant pathology, horticulture, and forestry.

Following Dr. Rivera’s overview, we hopped onto a trailer pulled by a tractor and began our tour. We also had a following friend - my furbaby Kenai,  who was quite fascinated in what Aaron Cato had to say about fruit and vegetable research. Cato explained the different ways to grow blackberries using trellis systems: two-wire system versus the v-trellis design. I found the v-trellis to be very fascinating by forcing the berries to produce on one side making it easier for harvest. Easier the better sounds great to me!

From there, we hopped back on the trailer and ventured on over to the high tunnels. At the high tunnels, we learned about their aphid research on strawberries.

Amanda Greer gave us the full tour of the Nematology Lab and Greenhouses. If you have never seen how they harvest nematodes before, you need to check it out:   

At the link, you will find Terry Kirkpatrick explaining “how the semiautomatic elutriator works to separate from soil samples.”

After viewing the nematodes and becoming overwhelmed in the count process, we ended our first day with a trip to the cattle barn to meet Dr. Charles Looney. Dr. Looney did an ultrasound on a cow’s uterus and ovaries. He also explained why artificial insemination is the best practice to get your top notch cattle. He informed us that they are also able to choose the gender of the calf. I had no idea! Additionally, we were able to look under the microscope to view an embryo. Just make sure you sanitize after leaving the barn! Dr. Looney works with tons of cow feces!

The following day, we made a trip to UA Hope-Texarkana. We began the day by going over conflict resolutions with Emily Smith, a program associate in the Community, Professional and Economic Development unit. It made it quite interesting when one group had to convince the whole cohort whether the Agriculture Experiment Station (AES) or Cooperative Extension Service (CES) was better. Luckily, we are “One Division,” so a compromise was easily created.

After our compromise, the cohort was visited by Jerry Clemons and Carla Due, Delta and Ouachita District Directors. On the panel, they discussed what they do and what the county extension agents do in the field. By the way, I may be biased because I am an agent, but we extension agents educate Arkansans on just about anything. Whether it is fire ant control, hay production, soil tests, 4-H leadership, youth development, finances, nutrition, food preservation, no matter the topic, the extension agents will make sure you have the most reliable, research-based, information.

Speaking of food preservation, the cohort did a hands-on activity with Hempstead County agents. Terrie James and Kim Rowe demonstrated how to make strawberry freezer jam. The cohort was able to get their hands sticky and take home some strawberry jam. Unfortunately, they did not show us how to make homemade biscuits, so we couldn’t properly sample some fresh jam… I guess the next cohort will have that luxury … just kidding! It was a great experience and learning activity our cohort enjoyed doing.

We only have two more iLead sessions left in the year. It is getting that much closer for you to hear about the cohorts projects. Stay tuned!

The iLEAD program enhances the interpersonal skills of University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture staff and faculty through virtual and in-person sessions, providing participants with knowledge, skills, and opportunities for growth. For more information about the iLEAD program contact Dr. Julie Robinson, or Lisa Davis,