As we were driving home Wednesday evening from the annual Cover Your Acres Winter Conference (CYA) held in Oberlin, I thought to myself that I sure wish more agriculture producers from Ellis County would attend this educational program.

I know I always get something out of it. It continues to be well attended in the region with somewhere south of 600 attendees and industry sponsors from Kansas and other states, highlighting the latest technology, methods and conservation practices to improve crop production in the region.

The history of this program goes back to around the early to mid-1990s in northwest Kansas when Clyde Mermis with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) in Oberlin along with some local farmers in the Norcatur area were seeking more information on no-till farming and better water utilization. From what I understand they started out doing some field trials on no-till, had field days for a few years and then held some meetings on no-till for a few years. These farmers also formed a group called the Northwest Kansas Crop Residue Alliance in about the mid-1990s. At the conclusion of their roughly four to five year effort, attendance was lagging at these events. But they did not give up. Instead more partners came aboard with the inclusion of the NW Area Extension Agronomist, Brian Olson.

From that partnership Brian agreed to help them plan, organize and host the first CYA Winter Conference in 2003. It was successful and by 2005 they were out-growing the facility and decided to add a second day with the same program in order to help accommodate the growing number of attendees. Some were skeptical about holding it a second day and wondered if they would get enough people there.

Now 13 years later it continues on with good acceptance/attendance by growers and financial support by industry sponsors.

Industry sponsors are able to set up booths and even bring equipment into the nice-sized facility which has made for a great and sustainable partnership with the residue alliance, NRCS and K-State Research & Extension. Anyone going to a trade conference likes to see the latest technologies and visit with company representatives and this conference gives them that opportunity.

K-State Research & Extension has been instrumental in working with these groups and helping in pulling together the resources and speakers for making this event successful.

As well no-till farming has been a game changer for western Kansas and the Great Plains agricultural industry and economy. In the early 1990s wheat-fallow was common, now there are more diverse cropping systems, improved soil water utilization, less soil erosion and higher yields with the advent of no-till farming.

Now for some reasons why farmers, consultants and agribusinesses should consider attending next year’s conference:

• Nice facility,

• Plenty of vendor booths and equipment,

• Reasonable cost — early bird registration $40 first day & $35 second day, includes meal, snacks and beverages,

• Free ride if you go the same day I do — can bring your pillow, no guarantee others will let you sleep,

• 18 different concurrent sessions/speakers to choose from,

• Well organized and run each session starts and ends on time,

• 10 Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) and 3 Commercial Applicator Credits available,

• Producer-driven meeting focused on new ideas and research-based updates in crop production in NW Kansas and the central High Plains region.

This year some of the university specialists and industry representatives discussed issues such as kochia and palmer amaranth control, soil microbiology, new pests in wheat and sorghum, farm profitability, managing soil pH, UAVs, weather forecasting, the economics of fertility management, and an economic comparison of today’s farms to those of the 1980s.

The CYA conference is always held in the third week of January. If you are a grower, consultant or agribusiness and have never attended it, or it has been a while, I would encourage you to mark it down on your December calendar now so you won’t forget in 2017.

Stacy Campbell is the Kansas State Research and Extension agent for Ellis County.