New MSU Extension field crops educator in the Thumb

Meet Kaleb Ortner, one of the two new field crop educators in the Thumb of Michigan.

A headshot of Kaleb Ortner.
Photo by MSU Extension

Hello, my name is Kaleb Ortner, I am one of the two new field crop educators recently hired by Michigan State University Extension in District 10 (Tuscola, Huron, Sanilac, Lapeer and St. Clair counties). I work out of the Tuscola County MSU Extension office in Caro, Michigan. Thanks to funding provided by the Michigan Soybean Committee, 50% of my appointment will be dedicated to soybean research and education. I will be working closely with Mike Staton, MSU Extension soybean educator, and Mark Seamon, Michigan Soybean Committee research director with on-farm research.

I am also in the process of becoming the precision agriculture specialist. This role will allow me to improve the Michigan Soybean On-farm Research program with the Michigan Soybean Committee, while also being able to give support to farmers adopting these practices.

I’m originally from Unionville, Michigan, which is about 25 minutes from the Caro office and a part of the area I’ll be serving. I completed my bachelor’s degree in crop and soil sciences from MSU in 2019. After graduating, I began my master’s work in crop and soil sciences working under Karen Renner and Alexandra Kravchenko. My research was focused on transitioning fields with diverse topography to organic production.

Additionally, I have worked extensively with cover crops to expand the growing season by interseeding corn. After graduation in August of 2021, I returned to Unionville where I now farm some acres myself.

I started with MSU Extension in the beginning of November 2021 and I am starting to settle in to my position. As part of my role, I am looking for growers who are willing to participate in the on-farm soybean research projects. If you have any interest in the 2022 research projects or just want to talk more about the 2021 soybean on-farm research report, please feel free to contact me. I am excited to take on this project and work closely with Mike Staton and the Michigan Soybean Committee to better serve the soybean growers of Michigan. Although I have a strong appointment in soybeans, I am knowledgeable in many other crops and would be happy to take any questions or concerns you may have.

Additional goals I am looking to accomplish this coming year are related to my precision agriculture role. To improve the on-farm research program and improve grower data collection as a whole, I will be putting together a yield monitor calibration program. Be on the lookout for more information on this in the coming growing season. Please reach out and ask whatever questions may come up and I will assist you or get in touch with someone who can.

Other interests I have under this umbrella of precision agriculture deal with variable rate, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index maps (NDVI), strip tilling, accurate data collection and utilization, along with new technology being released every day. Please contact me with any questions or if you just want to talk, I am always open to learning more.

Again, I am here to help you in any way that I can. Please contact me (989-450-7993 or ortnerka@msu.edu) or any of our educators to ask what MSU Extension can do for you. Thank you.

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