Ag Illustrated is a quarterly publication of the Auburn University College of Agriculture.

Katie Jackson
Leigh Hinton
Jamie Creamer


Teresa Rodriguez

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Extending the Knowledge

As part of its land-grant mission, the College of Agriculture takes pride in sharing knowledge and information with all citizens of the state and region. Those outreach activities are often delivered through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Following are brief examples of how CoAg information and expertise are being carried to the public through Extension's efforts.

Extension Announces Plan to Serve Alabama Agriculture Into the Future

By Sam Fowler, ACES Associate Director for Rural and Traditional Programs

Agriculture has been the main focus of Extension since its beginning almost 90 years ago, and it will continue to be our main focus for the future as well. But, obviously, the agriculture of 90 years ago is far different from the agriculture of today, and the agriculture of the future will be far different from that of today as well. These differences are due in no small measure to the impacts of Cooperative Extension.

There are few sectors of our national and state economy that have changed more than agriculture, and there is no reason to think that this trend will not continue. The thing that is most challenging for Extension is not the fact that agriculture is changing, but the rate at which these changes are occurring and the demands that these changes place upon us as educators to keep up AND be on the "cutting edge."

Many Alabama farmers have depended on Extension to guide them through critical decisions and changes. In fact, Extension agents have been referred to as "change agents" because a part of our mandate has been, and continues to be, to help people accept and adopt effective research-proven changes.

If you have stayed with me through these first few paragraphs, you've probably guessed that this column is about change. Perhaps two of the best summary statements on change were made by U.S. President John F. Kennedy when he said "everything changes but change itself" and "the only unchangeable certainty is that nothing is certain or unchangeable." So it is with Extension, too. We will be undergoing some major structural changes in 2004 that are necessary for us to better serve the agricultural community and, in reality, are probably well overdue.

The change that will be most visible to our agricultural constituents will be the restructuring of our agricultural field staff. As you all know, agriculture is a complex field of study with highly technical sub-areas, and each area is a whole discipline within itself. It is no longer remotely feasible to expect that generic "agricultural county agents" can possess the technical knowledge needed in all the complex sub-areas (i.e., animal sciences, agronomy, horticulture, etc.) of agriculture. To remain effective and viable, Extension educators must be experts in specific fields and know more about those areas of interest than their clientele.

To ensure this is the case, Extension is committed to a restructuring plan that allows its field agents to specialize in specific core areas and to develop and maintain a proven high level of competency in these areas of specialization. For this reason, we are changing from a model where agents have responsibilities for many subject matter areas within a single county, to one where most agents specialize in specific subject-matter areas and have responsibilities for that subject matter over a broader multicounty geographic area. In today's highly technical society, where cell phones and laptop computers make it possible to communicate much more easily, we feel this new structure of regional "expert agents" will better serve our agricultural clientele.

We are still committed to having a network of offices statewide and will continue to have an Extension office in every county where the county commission provides us with office space. The regional "expert agents" will work out of these county offices but will also be accessible directly by mobile phones when they are out of the office.

Decisions on the exact types, numbers and locations of regional expert agents have not been finalized; we will be gathering input from various commodity groups in these decisions. But currently our goal is to have multicounty agricultural expert agents with responsibilities in agronomic crops, animal production, horticulture, aquaculture and pond management, farm management and agricultural enterprise analysis and forestry, wildlife and natural resource management. The agents who specialize in each of these areas will be certified in their specific area of responsibility and will continuously train to ensure they remain on the cutting edge of their field.

We feel that this staffing model will allow us to better serve Alabama's agriculture in the future, and we are excited about this new direction. We will keep you all updated on these changes, and we welcome your comments on the subject. Contact us at 334-844-4444.

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Southern Forages Book Updated

More than 10 years ago, Don Ball, an Alabama Extension forage agronomist and CoAg professor of agronomy and soils, and two colleagues from other states recognized there was no practical guide for cattle and forage producers. So they took the forage by the horns and wrote a producer-friendly book that was applicable to the South.

That book, Southern Forages, quickly became the premier guide to modern southern forage management. Now it has been extensively revised and a new version is available to producers. This third edition, released in May 2003, features broad chapter revisions, topic updates and a number of other improvements.

Ball's co-authors are Carl Hoveland of the University of Georgia and Garry Lacefield of the University of Kentucky.

Southern Forages, published jointly by the Potash and Phosphate Institute and the Foundation for Agronomic Research, costs $34 ($30 plus $4 shipping and handling). To order a copy, send a check payable to "Potash and Phosphate Institute" to the Potash and Phosphate Institute at 655 Engineering Drive, Suite 110, Norcross, Ga., 30092-2837. People may also purchase the book online at

Better Alabama Beef in the Making

If you want to make more money in a beef cattle operation, you have to prove the quality of your product. It's a concept that many Alabama cattle producers are recognizing, thanks to the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association (BCIA).

Alabama BCIA, a cooperative effort between Alabama Extension and the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association, Inc., provides farmers with a comprehensive method for improving herd quality.

"Alabama BCIA promotes the use of performance records to improve herd production, efficiency and quality," says Michelle Field, Extension beef cattle specialist who is located in Clanton, Ala. "It also provides a total herd performance evaluation program and emphasizes that economically important traits in beef cattle can be improved through selection and culling decisions based on records. Alabama BCIA also emphasizes good management practices in breeding, feeding, health and marketing programs."

For more information on BCIA, contact Field at 205-646-0115 or visit the BCIA Web site at

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Flower Design Flourishing in Alabama

Each year Extension and the Alabama State Florist's Association hold floral design training sessions that are invaluable to the industry. This year two courses, The Leroy Black Basic Design Short Course and the 2003 Advanced Floral Design Workshop, drew large numbers of participants to the Auburn campus to learn more about designing floral arrangements.

According to Raymond Kessler, Extension horticulture specialist and CoAg associate professor of horticulture, the courses are held at Auburn's Funchess Hall, which offers an ideal setting–tall lab tables where students can ply their creative skills and a cooler for storing the flowers. The course participants truly dive into their work. "I've literally swept petals from the light fixtures in the ceiling when they are done," he laughs.

To find out about next year's courses, contact Kessler at 334-844-3055.

Marine Extension Working on Mercury Issues

Mercury in the environment, and more particularly methylmercury in fish, has become a public issue in coastal Alabama. The Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center (AUMERC) in Mobile is on the cutting edge of addressing this issue.

Last year, AUMERC, which is part of CoAg's Dept. of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures, partnered with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, THE FORUM, Industry Partners in Environmental Progress and Mobile Bay Watch, Inc./Mobile BayKeeper to organize and host a Mercury Forum.

More than 280 people registered to hear agency, industry and university researchers from around the nation explain the sources of mercury, how elemental mercury is transformed to methylmercury, how methyl mercury becomes biomagnified in fish, who tests for mercury levels, how consumption advisories are done and the effects of mercury on human health.

To learn more about Auburn's work with mercury issues in the Gulf of Mexico, contact Rick Wallace, AUMERC director, at 251-438-5690.

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Extension Helps Poultry Processors

Over the years, many poultry processing plant managers have expressed a need for timely, relevant and comprehensive, yet concise, information to be used in on-the-job training of the technical workforce (i.e., line supervisors, quality control personnel, managers) in the plant.

To meet this continuing education need, a monthly newsletter called WOGS (Worthwhile Operational Guidelines and Suggestions) was created. The name WOGS was actually adopted from a common poultry processing term that refers to a whole processed chicken carcass without giblets. WOGS covers topics in all aspects of processing technology, including product quality and yield, food safety and protection and environmental stewardship.

This one-page newsletter, designed to be retrieved electronically and printed locally, has been extremely well received by the poultry and allied industries. In addition to all poultry plants in Alabama, the electronic mailing list has expanded to include many poultry companies nationally and internationally.

Copies of the WOGS newsletter are also posted on the CoAg Department of Poultry Science Web site at for public access. WOGS allows rapid dissemination of critical information to industrial clientele and provides global visibility for the Poultry Product Safety and Quality Peak of Excellence Program.

Extension Experts Marshal Efforts to Fight Cogongrass

It's been called the weed from hell. And while experts are the first to admit it isn't possible to send the weed back from where it fictitiously sprang, they are looking for ways to contain its rapid spread throughout Alabama's Gulf Coast region.

Since its accidental introduction into the state almost a half century ago, cogongrass has caused nothing but trouble in the Gulf Coast region.

This is especially true in the forestry industry, says Mike Patterson, CoAg professor of agronomy and soils and an Extension weed scientist who is helping develop strategies to control the weed's spread.

Cogongrass also is a bane for state and county highway departments. With funding provided by the Alabama Department of Transportation, CoAg agronomy and soils graduate student Wilson Faircloth and Patterson are exploring the interaction between mowing frequency and herbicide application.

CoAg agronomist Edzard van Santen and Ludovic Capo-chichi, a geneticist doing post-doctoral work at Auburn, are trying to find out how cogongrass establishes itself so quickly throughout the Gulf Coast.

The hope is that these cooperative research efforts will lead to effective management strategies for cogongrass in forests and along highway rights-of-way.

For more information on cogongrass work at Auburn and in the state, contact Patterson at 334-844-5492.

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