Supporting food and agriculture

When you support MSU Extension, you help participants learn profitable and efficient business and production practices.

Gratiot County—A Strong Agricultural Producer

Michigan agriculture continues to be a growing sector of the state’s economy. Although Michigan may be best known for its specialty fruit, vegetable, and floriculture industries, field crops comprise the largest cropping sector in Michigan in terms of acreage, farms, farmers, and income. Field crops grown in Michigan include soybeans, corn, alfalfa/ hay, wheat and small grains, as well as important specialty row crops like sugar beets and dry beans. Michigan’s diverse livestock industry is also a significant component of the state’s agricultural industry. The economic impact of livestock and dairy products accounts for 37 percent of the total economic impact of Michigan’s agricultural products.

The 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture, the most recent report available, stated that the market value of agricultural products sold from Gratiot County was $345,033,000. This means that Gratiot has the 6th highest value of agricultural products in the state. Of this number, $199,091,000 is the value of crops (sixth highest in the state), and $145,942,000 is the value of livestock, poultry and their products (fifth highest in the state).

For individual crop or livestock categories, Gratiot County is:

  • #3 in number of pullets for laying flock replacement
  • #3 in number of turkeys
  • #4 in value of poultry and eggs
  • # 5 in Michigan in acres of soybeans (80,543 acres)
  • #5 in number of hogs and pigs
  • #5 in number of cattle and calves
  • #6 in value of milk from cows
  • #7 in number of acres of wheat
  • #7 in number of acres of corn

The MSU Extension Field Crops Team provides research-based knowledge to address the needs of field crop producers including strategies for managing production risks and advancement of efficient farming practices that enhance profitability while protecting soil and water resources. Participants learn how to optimize and reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers, and how to conserve and protect water resources. This education leads to better use of time, money and human capital, and helps retain and create agricultural jobs.

Raising Awareness of Food Production Practices & Technology

In 2017, Extension Educators, Marilyn Thelen and Paul Gross, provided critical agricultural expertise for Gratiot County. They hosted several events and partnered with Alma College to take a group of 23 students on a tour of local farms. The group was accompanied by three professors from the science, policy and advertising departments. The students, all freshman, were enrolled in various majors and only two in the group had any farm background.

The group was divided into two and were taken by vans to the various stops. The drive between stops gave opportunity for discussion on topics such as soils, sustainability, water quality, practices and technology. The freshman students were given an opportunity to look at food production through a way that perhaps they were not accustomed to. The tour also brought awareness to science based research on topics such as crop breeding, soils and cover crops. It was also was an opportunity for the educators to raise awareness of sustainability practices and environmental management in agriculture.


Enviroweather Weather Data and Pest Modeling aims to help users make pest, plant production and natural resource management decisions in Michigan by providing a sustainable weather-based information system. This online resource provides ‘local’ weather information and weather-based tools. There are currently 78 weather stations throughout Michigan.

An Enviroweather station is located in Gratiot County near Ithaca. Each station provides readings every 30 minutes on air temperature, soil temperature, soil moisture, relative humidity, solar radiation, wind speed and direction, precipitation, leaf wetness. There are different components of Enviroweather that deal specifically with field crops, fruit, vegetables, trees, turfgrass, and landscape/nursery.

Weather influences crop and pest development and management decisions. For example, wind speed and direction for drift management, temperature to prevent phytotoxicity that may result from applications on hot days, insect and pathogen development are all influenced by weather.

Model predictions allow growers to prepare to take management action if necessary. Enviroweather tools are intended to assist, not dictate, management decisions. The decision to take management action should be influenced by several factors including: a history of problematic pests, the current season pest pressure, susceptible crops, and past and predicted weather events.

Enviroweather is a collaborative project of: Michigan Climatological Resources Program and the MSU Integrated Pest Management Program. It is supported by: Project GREEEN, MSU AgBio Research, MSU Extension, private donors and the MSU Departments of Crop and Soil Sciences, Entomology, Forestry, Geography, Horticulture and Plant Pathology.

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