Improving Agronomic and Environmental Sustainability of Forage Production

CCE NWNY Team Field Crops Specialist Jodi Letham collaborates with the Nutrient Management Spear Program and other faculty programs at Cornell University on applied research and extension that aims to benefit field crop and dairy producers in a 9-county region of western New York.

The CCE intern will help plan, conduct, analyze, and evaluate on-farm research with the teams and participate in farmer education events focused on the use of cover crops, nutrient management, and integrated pest management in field crop rotations. Research trials include nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium application rate trials for forage sorghum as an alternative to corn silage, greenhouse gas emissions and soil health of corn fields as impacted by manure application, tillage and cover crop practices, assessment of soil compaction and its connection to yield, and research on the nutrient and yield enhancing impacts of manure for corn silage and grain. 

Roles and responsibilities 

The intern will work with the CCE supervisor and NMSP staff, crop consultants, and farmers in the region to collect soil samples, plant samples, greenhouse gas emissions, and penetrometer readings for compaction assessment as part of the research. Other activities include weed identification and sampling, plant disease sampling, insect scouting/trapping, and sampling of industrial hemp trials ongoing in the counties.

The intern will visit farmer fields throughout the region and gather input for weekly Crop Alert bulletins. The intern will have the opportunity to write an agronomy factsheet and participate in other extension events, ranging from attending producer meetings, interactions with local crop consulting firms, and assistance of dairy, livestock and farm business staff in the NWNY Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Team.

The intern will assist in CCE social media activities (Facebook, YouTube, Google Maps, X, etc.). This internship also provides an outstanding opportunity for an agriculturalist-in-training to shadow leading extension professionals as they interact with producers, agribusiness, research specialists and the general public. 

Qualifications and previous coursework

This opportunity is available to non-graduating students in Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

  • A strong interest in production agriculture is essential
  • Coursework and/or practical experience in field crop production, soil science, nutrient management and integrated pest management are preferred
  • A willingness to work hard, learn quickly, and professionally interact with farmers and other members of the agricultural community is essential for success in this position
  • The selected intern will be required to drive on behalf of the summer project and will need to have reliable transportation

Learning outcomes 

On-farm research and interacting with farmers is the key to identifying new, successful, and innovative management tools, and practices for decision making. By working with producers as well as CCE staff, the intern will learn about and gain skills in on-farm research. In addition, the intern will have the opportunity to participate and gain knowledge in all phases of field crop research (i.e. demonstration, training, planning, planting, treatment preparation, application, equipment calibration, field plot monitoring and maintenance, field events, sample collection, training material preparation, harvest, data entry and report generation). The intern will learn first-hand how to design and deliver educational programs that meet the needs of extension clientele about issues related to forage crop production, soil health, plant nutrition, and animal nutrition.