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Goal nearly reached on $2 million Wally Nelson endowment fund

Fri, Sep 20th, 2013
Posted in All Education

The ongoing mission of the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center at Lamberton has expanded significantly since its embryonic years in the early 1960s. To facilitate this greatly enhanced program and as a tribute to the herculean efforts of Dr. Wally Nelson, the first Superintendent of what was initially known as the Southwest Experiment Station, a Two Million Dollar Wally Nelson Endowed Chair in Crop Production is now underway to permanently fund a new position identified as a ‘Research/Outreach Scientist’ at SWROC.

Major financial support to date has come from various Minnesota commodity groups, particular the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association plus key agribusiness companies, farm cooperatives and individuals acquainted with Wally Nelson during his 36 years directing the station.

“We’re almost there,” said an elated Pauline Nickel, SWROC Head suggesting the $2 million goal should be doable shortly.

Providing major impetus is the ‘matching dollar’ effort of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association plus a major Minnesota farm cooperative is now doing a 3X match meaning any contribution now being generated will be multiplied three fold.

A bit of history tells the story of this remarkable facility. In 1962 when Nelson started this Experiment Station he became very aware of the growing need of southwest Minnesota farmers for more production research geared to the soils, climates and the rural culture of this prairie region. He developed unique research projects geared specifically to the challenges of production agriculture with the continual focus of increasing crop yields.

Fast forward to 2013. Today this educational and resource gem now called the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center (SWROC) has an even greater commitment to production agriculture plus also greatly expanded efforts to enhance rural vitality and environmental quality. Today the Center works with agricultural producers and businesses, K-12 educators with a focus on agricultural science and experimental learning, consumer education, rural Minnesota professionals working with children, youth and families plus students from elementary to the college level.

Just a few new research efforts at SWROC include:

•Carbon, Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Sulfur impacts on soil microbial activity.

•Organic vegetable production in high tunnel environments.

•Water use efficiency in conventional cropping systems.

•Seed and foliar insecticide/fungicide evaluations.

•Strategies to avoid weed, insect, and diseases resistance issues.

On the Outreach docket, SWROC provides:

•Ten-day graduate course for K-12 educators focusing on the science of agriculture.

•Three year sustainable agriculture training program for high school science and agricultural instructors.

•Three Day “University on the Prairie” program engaging students 7-12 to explore science concepts and careers important to the economics of southwestern Minnesota.

•Two, 1-day sessions for fourth graders (600+) to promote agricultural literacy, health and safety, and environmental sciences.

Summed up Nickel, “The Southwest Research and Outreach Center is firmly planted with our fields, our facility and, most importantly, our people. Talented and dedicated researchers, educators, technicians and assistants help guide and direct all that we do.

“We stand strong in the field of agricultural research because of our strong commitment to producers, communities and colleagues. We look back on our first 50 years with pride and confident that this will be a thriving research and outreach center for the future. We thank everyone for their support of this Wally Nelson Endowed Faculty Chair. This permanent faculty position will provide ongoing leadership for crop production research, extension and education efforts throughout southwest Minnesota.”

Individuals wanting to contribute to this effort should make their check out to: University of Minnesota Foundation and mail to Pauline Nickel, Southwest Research and Outreach Center, 23669 130th Street, Lamberton, Minn. 56152. For more information contact Nickel by E-mail at nicke002@umn.edu or cell phone: (507) 829-8257.

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