Montana State University

MSU Extension specialists win national awards

December 16, 2009

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Montana State University Extension specialists won four national awards at the American Society of Agronomy's annual conference held recently in Pittsburgh.

Excellence Awards for Extension Educational Materials were given to the following:

Kent McVay, MSU Extension cropping systems specialist at the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station's Southern Agricultural Research Center in Huntley, for a set of new Web-based tools to help farmers choose appropriate crop varieties for their conditions. The tools include variety, herbicide, and fertilizer selection.

"The web tools can help producers select varieties that fit their production needs and help meet their yield goals," McVay said. "Basically, it changes reams of data into straightforward answers based on user-entered information."

2009 data has now been added to the variety selection page for several crops. The Web site tools can be accessed at:

Clain Jones, MSU Extension soil fertility specialist and Duane Griffith, MSU Extension agricultural economics specialist won for their economic nitrogen rate calculator software. The software helps producers determine fertilizer application rates for winter and spring wheat, as well as barley.

"Optimizing fertilizer nitrogen rates can have a dramatic effect on the bottom line for Montana wheat growers," said Jones, who worked on the Web-based tool with Griffith.

To use the tool, users must specify their level of soil nitrogen, organic matter and maximum expected yield, or yield goal, for a specific field, as well as nitrogen costs and grain prices. With this information, the programs estimate the optimum nitrogen rate to maximize net economic returns.

Adam Sigler, MSU Extension water quality associate along with Jim Bauder Extension soil and water quality specialist, Suzanna Carrithers, Extension water quality education coordinator, David Keto, a graduate student in MSU's science and natural history filmmaking program won for the DVD "Taking Care of yOur Ground Water: A homeowner's guide to well and septic systems." The DVD explains not just how to take care of your septic system and drinking water well, but that they are part of the same water cycle.

"When people learn that their septic tank and drinking water well are part of the same water system, their heads come up and the questions start," says Sigler.

Using 3-D graphic animations, the DVD includes sections on water system considerations for buying or building a new home, protecting the wellhead, septic systems, sampling for well water quality, interpreting water quality results, chlorinating a well and water system, water treatment options and bloopers.

The DVD costs $4 and is available from MSU Extension Publications Distribution Center, P.O. Box 172040, Bozeman, MT 59717, by calling (406) 994-3273 or e-mailing

Clain Jones and research associates Kathrin Olson-Rutz and Courtney Pariera Dinkins won for their publication Enhanced Efficiency Fertilizers which explains the potential applications and performance of enhanced efficiency fertilizers for cropping systems in our region.

"With the volatility in fertilizer prices and increasing environmental awareness, producers are asking about the effectiveness of new slow- and controlled release fertilizers," said Jones. "The bulletin answers many of those questions."

The MSU Extension award recipients won four of 24 awards in four different categories. No other universities received awards in more than one category. MSU's four awards were the 2nd best showing in the country.