By Trista Gropp
April 22, 2011--A symbiotic relationship between the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and industry has led to great educational opportunities and ultimately the development of saleable agronomy products.
The unique relationship began in 1989 with plots on some of the university’s land for research and education. Today, this relationship with Winfield Solutions LLC, the seed and crop protection company of Land O’Lakes, Inc., continues to provide for the company’s research, experiential learning for interns, producers and agronomists and resultant development and improvement of agronomy products.
At the core of this working relationship is education. The research plots have been used for employee training, UW-Extension outreach programs and classroom education opportunities for undergraduate students.
UWRF and Winfield Solutions’ working agreement provides mutual benefits, including land use, the sharing of equipment, providing credit for seed, financial support for farm maintenance and improvement projects, student internships and crop scouting services.
UWRF Laboratory Farms Director Bill Connolly says, “It’s been a great symbiotic relationship - we learn from each other. There has always been an open door policy that welcomes outreach learning.”
The tests conducted at UW-River Falls are a starting point for Winfield Solutions’ product testing process. The trials are used as a screening to identify which products will go on to further company testing and development. Recent Winfield Solutions products such as the drift-reduction agent InterLock, micronutrient Max-In ZMB and crop-based adjuvant Class Act NG have been developed in part at the River Falls plots. Over the years more than ten products have been developed at the Mann Valley Laboratory Farm.
“We are very excited about these products that had their beginnings at River Falls and are pleased to offer them to benefit the American farmers,” states Greg Dahl, research manager for product development at Winfield Solutions.
Land at the UWRF Mann Valley Laboratory Farm is staked out into eight feet by 15 feet test plots and planted with corn, soybeans, alfalfa, wheat, oats, canola, barley, flax, sunflower, buckwheat or vegetables. Test treatments are applied, rated and evaluated as to their effectiveness, how the substance mixes, sprays and handles. Winfield Solutions hires student research and development interns each summer to manage the trials conducted on the UWRF Mann Valley Lab Farm acreage.
“The interns help us conduct field trials in which we are searching for new or improving upon current crop protection products,” says Laura Hennemann, research specialist at Winfield Solutions.
The research and development interns are responsible for field maintenance, application of test products and record keeping. A variety of crops are used as subjects to test herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, micronutrients, grain and seed protectants and adjuvants.
The intern experience allows students to learn about the most current technology and crop protection methods, tour other field trials and network within the industry.
“You learn more out there in the field on top of what you do in the classroom,” says Parker Heise, a crop and soil science student from River Falls who has completed three internship experiences with Winfield Solutions.
After initially meeting representatives from Winfield Solutions at a UWRF Crop and Soil Science Club meeting, Heise began a research and development internship. Heise says the experience gained from working closely with the agronomy products gave him the ability to succeed in a sales and marketing internship at a local cooperative. Heise will be starting a regional agronomist trainee program this summer.
The internship program with Winfield Solutions helps to develop students into future employees and gives them a better understanding of what is happening in the industry today.
Winfield Solutions has also demonstrated support by establishing an annual scholarship program at UWRF. Seven $1,000 scholarships are awarded to select UWRF interns that work with Winfield Solutions over the summer in agronomy, sales or marketing internships.
“It’s a great relationship that we are fortunate to have. We’ve worked with good people and students and have many success stories. It’s a valuable relationship that will keep going,” says Dahl.