Plant Health Program, Doctor of


Document Type

Doctoral Document

Date of this Version

Spring 4-19-2016


McMechan, A. J. 2016. A vision for extension: case studies on managing extreme weather challenges in corn. Doctor of Plant Health Doctoral Document. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A Doctoral Document Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Plant Health, Major: Doctor of Plant Health, Under the Supervision of Professor Gary L. Hein. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2016

Copyright © 2016 Anthony Justin McMechan


Global demand for corn is projected to rise in the coming decades to meet the food and fuel requirements of an increasing human population. Technological innovations have significantly improved corn yields over the past few decades; however, corn production is continually limited by unfavorable weather conditions. Extreme weather events put pressure on producers, adjustors, and consultants to make quick management decisions to maintain the highest return on their investment. Proper management decisions require an understanding of plant response and practical ways of applying this knowledge under real world conditions.

The following document was written after completing a six-month internship at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln conducting research and extension activities focused on cropping systems. A number of key issues emerged during the internship and a literature review address those topics (Chapter 1). This internship provided experience on the integration of cover crops in corn, corn hybrid response to greensnap damage, and specifically focused on early-season hail damage and primary ear removal in corn. These last two projects are addressed extensively in this document (Chapters 2-3).

The purpose of this research was to generate experiences in translating scientific information to consultants, educators, industry, crop insurance adjustors, media outlets, and producers. In addition, developing different methods of Extension programming and interaction with clientele allowed for a better understanding of key barriers in translating scientific information. The combination of research and Extension experiences in this document, as well as the history of the Cooperative Extension Service led to the formation of my future vision for Extension (Chapter 4).

Extension must be strongly centered on issues that are important to its clientele. The technological and intellectual capabilities of today’s producers provides Extension with the opportunity to engage them in the problem-solving process through on-farm research. Such strategies allow specialists to understand how solutions interact with producer management strategies. In addition, real world demonstration plots addressing multidisciplinary issues provide a foundation for in depth conversations on underlying causes of key issues in agriculture. Lastly, technologies, such as time-lapse photography and GoPro video cameras, provide an opportunity to overcome key barriers to education.

Advisor: Gary L. Hein