EAST LANSING — Whether the question is about precision planting, growing crops for biofuels or identifying plants more accurately, Michigan State University Ag Expo has the answers.

A wide range of crop-related educational sessions are scheduled during this year’s Ag Expo, happening from July 16 to 18 at MSU.

Soil health and practices that affect it

Over the past several decades, numerous technological advances such as breakthroughs in plant genetics and precision farming have increased crop yields. Many farmers, agronomists and agribusiness operators have come to realize that maintaining soil health has been an overlooked factor in increasing yields while reducing the environmental impact of food production. Improving soil health is the next step to continue improving crop yields and building better soils.

Presenters Paul Gross, Christina Curell and Charles Gould, all MSU Extension educators, will define soil health and explain why it is important, and focus on the tools that farmers can use to improve soil health on their farms. These tools include practicing conservation tillage or no-till, diversifying crop rotations, planting cover crops, fertilizing with manure, and using compost and other organic materials to increase soil organic matter. Participants will learn how to better manage soil by understanding soil biology, microorganisms and the functions they perform.

The presentation will take place at the Crop and Soil Science Corner beginning at 11 a.m. and again at 2:30 p.m. each day of Ag Expo.

Energy crops and biomass pelletization

Through photosynthesis, plants capture solar energy and store it in leaves, stems, seeds and roots. These plant tissues, generally referred to as biomass, can be processed to recover their stored energy in the form of solid and liquid fuels. Biofuels are a renewable source of energy and can be regenerative when sustainable methods are employed to manage, harvest and process the crops. Visitors to the Crop and Soil Sciences Tent can view a variety of growing energy crops and learn how one method of biofuel processing, pelletization, can contribute to a green energy future. MSU Extension bioenergy educators will demonstrate the process of making biomass pellets daily at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. using a mobile pellet mill. They’ll also discuss opportunities for farms and businesses to host biofuel processing demonstrations using their unique feedstock.

Zeeland Farm Services sponsors this educational session each day of Ag Expo at 9:30 a.m. and again at 1:30 p.m. All sessions will take place at the Crop and Soil Science Corner.

Identifying forage plants in pastures

Have you ever wondered just what all those plant species are in your pasture or hayfield? Kim Cassida, Michigan State University forage specialist, will help Ag Expo visitors learn how to identify desirable forage species and how to tell the difference between grasses, legumes and forbs. On-site demonstration forage plots will provide hands-on practice to hone identification skills.

The session will begin at 12:30 p.m. each day of Ag Expo at the Crop and Soil Science Corner.

Check soybean disease management off your list this growing season

Are seedling diseases occurring unnoticed in your soybean fields? Is soybean sudden death syndrome or white mold cutting into top yields late in the season? In partnership with the Michigan Soybean Checkoff Program, MSU plant pathologist Martin Chilvers will discuss management tips to prevent infections as well as disease diagnosis in the field and solutions to reaffirm top yields after disease discovery. Visitors will leave this interactive session with practical information that will enable them to improve their farms’ management of soybean diseases.

Soybean disease sessions will take place at the Crop and Soil Science Corner beginning at 10:30 a.m. each day of Ag Expo.

Ag Expo runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., July 16 and 17, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., July 18. Admission to the grounds and parking at Farm Lane and Mt. Hope Road are free.

For more information about Ag Expo, call (800) 366-7055 or visit www.agexpo.msu.edu.