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Monday, June 29, 2015

Two Dakota County 4-H teams participate in 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge

On June 17-19, 12 teams of 4-H youth from across Minnesota came to the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus to present their research and solutions for important agriculture-related issues.  Their projects were part of the 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge. The first of its kind in the country, the new program is part of an effort to create excitement about agriculture and expand the pipeline of youth studying agriculture and pursuing agriculture-related careers.

4-H asked teams of Minnesota youth to identify agriculture-related issues in their communities and develop science-based solutions. Over the past nine months, the youth worked with adult mentors and agriculture experts to identify their issues and develop their solutions using science and engineering practices. The 4-H'ers shared their results at the event last week, which included judging presentations, interviewing and resumé-building workshops, campus tours to explore agriculture and science resources at the University, and a showcase fair and recognition celebration to share their work and connect with representatives from the University and agribusiness community who are eager to meet the next generation of leaders in agriculture.

"According to a recent report by the USDA, between 2015 and 2020, there will be about 57,900 jobs annually for graduates with bachelor's or higher degrees in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, or the environment," said Dr. Josh Rice, University of Minnesota Extension agriculture specialist, who leads the program. "The 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge was developed to expose youth to the wide variety of ag-related issues that they can have a role in solving today and in the future."

Two teams from Dakota County participated in the 4-H challenge this year.

The Dakota County 4-H Topsoil Team – Peter Breimhurst, John Breimhurst, Haakon Larsen and Erik Lundstrom - summarized its 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge research:

"Our team looked into the effects of the conventional tillage on multiple environmental, economical, and production characteristics. When we saw how destructive conventional tillage can be, we decided to investigate possible solutions that would have similar production levels. Reduced tillage is a solution that we decided to investigate. A combination of soil tests, online research, interviews, and a tour of a reduced-tillage implement production facility were done. Tests included a percolation test, run-off tests, pressure tests, and a temperature study. We used the results from these tests to evaluate the quality of the soil in these two conditions based on the five qualities of good soil and other important aspects. We also interviewed farmers about their thoughts on reduced tillage and what impacts they see it having. Both farmers who have switched to reduced tillage methods and those who continue with conventional methods were interviewed. Our results are overwhelmingly in support of reduced tillage for several reasons. It helps the environment by reducing run-off, reducing the use of fossil fuels, and even reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the soil. We found crop yields do not decrease with the use of reduced tillage and that thousands of dollars in fuel can be saved using reduced tillage over a year. The longevity of the fields is increased with reduced tillage, which is very important for the future when the current farms are required to feed an ever increasing world population."

The Dakota County 4-H Japanese Beetle Team – Megan Abagat, Anne Breimhurst and Kayla Daniel – summarized its 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge research:

"The team researched controlling the Japanese Beetle.  We started our online research focusing on the history and life cycle of the Japanese Beetle, how they affect the agriculture industry and how do farmers, gardeners and individuals control them.  We also extended our research on how we are going to apply the Eight Science and Engineering Practices.  While doing the research online, we referenced only those reputable sources like previous publication or research from universities and government agriculture sectors in the U.S.  After the research we gathered data by creating a questionnaire and distributing it to farmers, then we analyzed the results which will support the rest of our research.  Then we designed how we approached our experiment focusing on how to control the Japanese Beetles in ways that will not damage any crops or vegetation, less damage to the environment, animals and humans.  The experiment covers integrated pest management, organic practice and commercial ways of using pesticides.  Our research is very limited, because of the Japanese Beetle life cycle and the timing of the final presentation.  The team also intends to extend the research for the entire year to catch up with the beetle life cycle."

Judges for the challenge were Robin Kopel, Jennie-O Turkey Store Vice President of Human Resources; Mark Hamerlinck, Minnesota Corn Growers Association Senior Communications Director; Dr. Adam Birr, Minnesota Corn Growers Association Chief Executive Officer; Ruth Meirick, Minnesota Farm Bureau Foundation Director; and Dr. Amy Smith, University of Minnesota Agricultural Education Assistant Professor.

The top three teams were awarded scholarships that can be used in any accredited university, college or trade school. First place Meeker County 4-H Hay Waste Team members received $1000 each, second place Washington County 4-H Insects as Food Source Team members received $750 each, and third place Le Sueur County 4-H Biodiesel Team members received $500 each.

"There is a critical need for skilled agriculture professionals, nationally and in Minnesota," says Dorothy Freeman, Extension Center for Youth Development associate dean and state 4-H director. "We know hands-on experiences like the 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge are a great way to introduce and engage youth in learning about agriculture, and making it fun and exciting."

This year's 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge was made possible by sponsorship provided by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association,  the Minnesota Farm Bureau, AgStar Financial Services and the Minnesota Soybean Research Council/

To learn more, go to

About Extension 4-H: 4-H is a youth development program of the University of Minnesota Extension.  Available for youth grades k-1 year after high school, 4-H'ers participate in hands-on learning experiences in STEM, citizenship & leadership, animal science, creative arts and much more. Through this learn-by-doing process, youth obtain essential life skills such as problem solving, decision making, coping and communicating that help them succeed in their school, college, community and career. Research shows that youth who participate in 4-H have better grades and are more emotionally engaged with school, are more than twice as likely to be civically active and contribute to their communities, and are 47% less likely to have risky or problem behaviors.

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