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By David BennettU of A System Division of AgricultureOct. 4, 2019
(760 words)(Download this story in MS Word format here.)
UNDATED — A successful Arkansas economy relies on two essential elements: agriculture
and farmers. Unfortunately, fewer young people are choosing to farm, leaving a widening
knowledge disparity for those watching over crops.
The Cooperative Extension Service has turned that conundrum into an opportunity, however,
tapping Andy Vangilder as an instructor, helping growers in the state’s burgeoning
peanut fields and serving as a mentor to younger agents.
While driving in northeast Arkansas, Vangilder explained how the extension service
is bridging the gap.
“After 35 years, I’d retired after working in the northeast,” said Vangilder, veteran
extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “My
primary interest had always been cotton. So, I was away from extension for three years
and then got a call from an old colleague saying ‘Hey, Andy, we have some peanut growers
Vangilder said Travis Faske, extension plant pathologist for the Division of Agriculture
and the institution’s de facto peanut agronomist for the past several years, has proved
an invaluable resource to his efforts.
“I lean on him for my information,” Vangilder said. “He has a big responsibility working
on plant diseases, working on nematodes resistant crops and other things.”
One thing that’s important to understand, said Vangilder, “is we’re trying to get
young agents better trained to get out and work with producers. That can be difficult
for them because often there are few mentors. They can be alone in a county with little
help. So, a few years ago, our director (Dr. Rick Cartwright) took a seasoned agent,
Hank Chaney, and moved him into a position as an instructor/educator. Hank now works
with all the young agents.”
Vangilder first began working with peanuts in the early 1980s in Craighead County.
“We had a few growers who were the last to have allotments,” he said, referring to
the system by which the U.S. Department of Agriculture once assigned limited peanut
acreage to participating farmers. “There were some great peanut crops at the time
– the area is good peanut land. But then the allotments ended and that coincided with
a tough growing season because it was so wet. So, I was brought in to help with peanut
A great rotationVangilder’s experience with cotton proved beneficial because a peanut/cotton rotation
is a key tool in conserving soil nutrients over consecutive growing seasons.
“That means I’m doing peanut field calls, doing research on production practices to
increase income, and help younger agents learn peanuts and cotton,” he said. “I’m
the first to say I’m not a peanut specialist, but I’ve learned a lot since taking
this position. Knowledge will come when you’re willing to work.”
What’s interesting about growing peanuts in Arkansas, he said, “is we can grow them
in some of the sandiest, sorriest root-knot nematode-infested ground. That crop will
do very well and reduce the nematode population, and then the producer can come back
and grow a cotton or soybean crop that has a good seed or in-furrow treatment. The
third year, producers can plant corn or soybeans before coming back to peanuts. That’s
a very successful rotation scheme.”
Vangilder is quick to credit extension and business-world colleagues.
“I’ve been helped greatly by Dr. Scott Monfort, extension peanut specialist in Georgia,
and Dr. Tom Barber, from Arkansas, on weed control,” he said.
Monfort formerly worked in Arkansas.
“The Peanut Growers Association of Arkansas has been great to work with, as well,”
Vangilder said. “They’ve provided check-off funds for my position. Delta Peanut and
Birdsong have also been extremely helpful.”
Several equipment upgrades will help with research in the state, Vangilder said, including
a weigh wagon, which Monfort designed, and a portable harvester.
“That’s been one of the problems with peanut research,” Vangilder said. “It’s hard
to get accurate data without the right equipment. Do the weights in the field tell
you whether a product or practice is actually working? A proper weigh wagon will give
us those answers and we’ve got one coming. That will make a great difference in giving
us answers in how to move peanut production to a greater level in the state. “
Arkansas growers interested in peanut production can contact Vangilder at email@example.com.
“I want to hear from any producer interested in on-farm research,” he said. “We’re
looking to do fungicide work, variety testing, plant growth regulators, all sorts
of things. We’ll be looking at gypsum, even on high-calcium soils.”
To learn about peanut production in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension
Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow the Cooperative Extension Service on Twitter at @uaex_edu.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity,
sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran
status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative
Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
Media Contact: Tracy CourageDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) firstname.lastname@example.org