Just because you can’t see it up close doesn’t mean it’s not real, as readers will see in this edition of Arkansas Land and Life. The reality is driven home with “virtual” technology, which takes people places where they can participate in events as if they really are there. The benefit extends to hundreds of youths in Arkansas schools who otherwise wouldn’t have taken a virtual field trip to a Craighead County soybean farm sponsored by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. By logging in from their classrooms, they saw on their screens the science behind the field crop.
Seeing tiny bugs up close can be difficult without some assistance. Water mites are usually no larger than 3 mm and are best viewed under microscopes. But they are of interest to Division researchers for bigger reasons. They can serve as indicators of water quality in freshwater streams. They’re all over the continent, and our research team is documenting their diversity.
Water quality is also measured in bigger doses. Division researchers are tracking the sources of the hypoxic, or dead, zones in the Gulf of Mexico. Nutrient sources from urban, suburban and rural areas contribute to the problem through the Mississippi River watershed, which drains Arkansas and 40 percent of the nation’s land surface. Potential reduction of the hypoxic zone is a target that researchers throughout the U.S. are seeking.
As for research, it’s generally considered to be something that the older adults at the universities do. But the Division is bringing undergraduate horticulture students to its Fruit Research Station in Clarksville to spend the summer conducting research. Along the way, they pick up valuable academic skills and advance the work at the fruit station.
Even younger students take advantage of the Division’s offerings. Arkansas 4-H provides citizenship and leadership training for youths in such subjects as the mechanics of voting and up-close looks at local government functions. The lessons they learned last summer gave them some insight to the election season that dominated the fall.
Many people in Arkansas would like to have more insight into the Farm Bill signed into law in 2014. It’s significant and sometimes controversial legislation that will change agriculture in Arkansas in many ways. We’ve called on the Division of Agriculture’s experts in the topic to break down the 1,000-page bill into manageable information for our readers.
Arkansas Land and Life has considerably fewer pages than the Farm Bill, but we hope our readers will manage to find useful and informative material here on all the topics we cover.