In fall 2015, researchers from the Southeast Agricultural Research Center and specialists from the Southeast Area Extension Office moved into a new 13,289 square-foot building in Parsons, forming the Southeast Research and Extension Center. Research faculty had been housed at the Parsons State Hospital and Training Center and extension specialists were located in Chanute.
Having the research and extension faculty in one building mirrors the system established in western Kansas with the Northwest Research-Extension Center in Colby and Southwest Research-Extension Center in Garden City. With the physical move competed, the two groups are merging leadership.
“We are blending the research and extension programs under one administrator,” said Ernie Minton, interim dean of the College of Agriculture and interim director of K-State Research and Extension.
Lyle Lomas joined the staff in 1979 as animal scientist, served as head from 1985 to 1994, and both head and animal scientist from 1994 to 2018. He will continue his research for at least another year. In July, J.D. McNutt, who has been southeast regional extension director since 2004, was appointed to lead the center.
“I am honored to be the first department head to oversee both research and extension,” said McNutt. “Our facility is like no other in southeast Kansas, and we are proud to be a Kansas State University presence in the area.”
The region has highly diverse soils and average rainfall ranges from 30 to 45 or more inches.
Faculty at the center include Dan Sweeney, professor of soil and water management; Gretchen Sassenrath, associate professor of crop production; Beth Hinshaw, 4-H and Youth Development specialist; Gayle Price, family and consumer sciences specialist; and Jamelynn Farney ’07, ’12, beef systems specialist.
According to Sassenrath, faculty manage replicated test plots at the Parsons crop and pasture facilities, as well as fields in Columbus. The center also has cattle and forage resources to conduct various projects, including multiple pastures of four grass species and a feedlot at Mound Valley. Grazing research is conducted with introduced species of grass rather than native grass, which differs from other K-State locations.
Grazing projects often follow up with a finishing phase to determine the effect of grazing treatment on finishing performance.
Common production systems produce three crops in two years, with a rotation of corn, winter wheat, and double-cropped soybeans.
Family and consumer sciences programs related to diabetes, healthful eating, exercise, money management, aging issues, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed), food safety, and “Better Brains for Babies” help transform the lives of individuals, families, and communities.
The area has a strong 4-H community club program with about 5,100 4-H members ages 7 to 18 supported by 1,480 adult volunteers. Staff are committed to teaching leadership skills to 4-H’ers, and through schools, community groups, and community colleges, said Hinshaw.