Big Year for North Carolina at the American Forage and Grassland Council’s 2020 Annual Conference
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The American Forage and Grassland Council (AFGC) is an international organization made up of 20 affiliate councils in the United States and Canada with a total individual membership of about 2,500. The primary objective of AFGC is to promote the profitable production and sustainable utilization of quality forage and grasslands. The 2020 American Forage and Grasslands Council’s Annual Meeting took place on January 5–8 in Greenville, SC. The overarching conference theme was “The more you know, the smarter you grow” and was very fitting for AFGC’s 76th Anniversary. North Carolina had 41 participants at this year’s conference including undergraduate and graduate students, faculty members, extension agents, producers, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services personnel, NRCS Agronomists, and industry personnel. North Carolina accounted for 15% of the total conference registration, and we are very proud of the turnout from our community.
Not only did North Carolina have a great turnout for the conference, but many members also participated in various events, workshops, and competitions. The University of Mount Olive took a forage quiz bowl team to compete in the National Forage Quiz Bowl Competition. The team was coached by Dr. Heather Glennon and included undergraduate students Amanda Salmi, Austin Rash, Mackenzie Hall, and Analise Ritter. There was a total of 9 quiz bowl teams from across the country that competed for the 2020 title. Mount Olive made it all the way to the semi-finals before being knocked out by Wisconsin-River Falls, who went on to win the national title.
Several students from NC State University also participated in the conference by presenting posters on their graduate or undergraduate research. Ph.D. Candidate Jordan Cox-O’Neill presented a poster on her Ph.D. work titled “subsequent corn yield and soil structure following grazing of annual forages in an integrated crop-livestock system” and is advised by Dr. Carrie Pickworth and Dr. Joan Eisemann. Cindy Nolasco, an undergraduate student in Animal Science working with Jordan also presented a poster titled “Nutritive value of cereal rye and rye-turnip mix in an integrated crop-livestock system.” Ethan Henderson, Haywood County Livestock Agent and MS student under Dr. Matt Poore and Dr. Deidre Harmon presented his graduate work titled “utilizing cool-season annual grass and grass-legume mixtures for grazing and silage in Appalachia.” One of the unique aspects of presenting research at the annual AFGC conference is the feedback the students receive on their work as well as the networking opportunity with professionals from all across the United States.
Others from North Carolina were also able to share their research and personal experiences at the conference in various workshops and poster sessions. In a volunteer oral session, Andy Burlingham, extension livestock agent in Pitt County, talked about developing annual forage rotations for hay production in the Southeast. In another workshop, Mike Jones, forage and livestock producer from Surry County, Dr. Matt Poore, Beef Specialist, and Dr. Alan Franzluebbers, Soil Scientist at NC State, each focused presentation around choices for tall fescue management. Mike Jones and Dr. Matt Poore also presented in another volunteer oral session where Mike spoke about “wildlife and grazing” and Dr. Poore touched on orchardgrass management. Alan Franzluebbers also participated in a poster session with his research titled “where did that nitrogen in this pasture come from”.
One of the highlights of the conference is the many competitions available to the membership. There is a forage ID contest, hay evaluation contest, photo contest, emerging scientist competition, and many others. One of the most anticipated competitions of the conference is the forage spokesperson competition, where each state affiliate council gets to nominate one producer to present a 15-minute presentation about how forages fit into their operation. It is always a tough competition and this year there was only a 3-point spread between first, second, and third place. Of the 7 competitors in this year’s competition, we are excited to announce that Eric Deal from Rowan County took home first place and is the forage spokesperson of the year.
In addition to the forage spokesperson competition, several others from North Carolina placed in other competitions. The photo contest has 5 categories (education, wildlife, and conservation, open, harvested forage, and grazing) in which participants can enter photos. This year, area livestock agent in Person County, Kim Woods, placed first in the Education category, Marty Price, area specialized dairy agent in Chatham County, placed first in the Wildlife and Conservation category, and Dr. Deidre Harmon placed first in the Grazing category and was selected as the overall photo contest winner. In addition to the photo contest, North Carolina also won first place in the video contest, a new contest this year at the annual AFGC meeting. Paige Smart, president of the NC Forage and Grasslands Council, April Shaeffer, Beef Research Technician at NC State University and Dr. Deidre Harmon collaboratively submitted a video titled “My Favorite Forage: A Tale of Forage Diversity in NC.” In this video, livestock and forage producers from 7 counties in NC shared which forage was their favorite, and how they have incorporated it into their forage system on their farms.
The AFGC annual conference wrapped up with the annual awards banquet. During this banquet, several major awards are given out for outstanding contribution of individuals to the grazing animal industry. The Distinguished Grasslander Award is presented to individuals who have served the forage and grassland segment of agriculture with distinction. Recipients have spent a career working with forages and must be at least 55 years of age. This year’s recipient was Dr. Matt Poore, who has spent his career focusing on improving forage production and profitability and has made Amazing Grazing a nationally and internationally known program.
Collectively, the 2020 American Forage and Grassland Council’s annual conference may have been North Carolina’s best one yet. The participation, networking, and education at this year’s conference was exceptional and truly a one-of-a-kind experience. If you would like to get involved, join our affiliate council here in NC by visiting NC Forage Grasslands Council. A membership to the NC Forage and Grassland Council gives you automatic membership to the national council. We hope to see you all at the 2021 AFGC Annual Conference to be held in January in Savannah, GA.