Around 2,800 students from 58 high schools toured the center on the previous day. On the public field day, it rained for the first time in 13 years. Attendance was 350 people, a center spokesperson said, but the rain was welcomed in the face of ongoing drought.
Some of the speakers concentrated on unseen benefits from promoting insect life. Entomologist Wayne Bailey, for example, explained the advantages of dung beetles. Prevalent but seldom seen, dung beetles bury manure and can clear entire fields. One beetle can bury 250 times its weight in a single night.
Nadia Navarrete-Tindall with the University of Missouri's Agroforestry provided handouts on native plants that attract pollinators. With the decline of the honey bee, Navarrete-Tindall said it is important to know what attracts other insects and hummingbirds. Gardens in particular can benefit by planting flowers that draw the right insects.
Navarrete-Tindall advised planting flowers for the spring and shrubs to draw insects in the summer and fall.
When contacting a logger, Stelzer said it's very important to have everyone in agreement. Having a written contract is an important protection.
A number of presenters targeted the needs of the home gardener or small producer.
Byers recommended rotating tomato planting sites for avoid disease, planting early to capture high early market prices but being wary of frosts.
For fruit growers, extension horticulture outreach advisor John Avery offered tips on getting the best harvest. Fruits like blueberries and apples produce clusters of flowers. Apples produce five flowers on a bud. Avery would pinch them back to one and cut the limbs to keep them eight inches apart, a trimming strategy he also applies to peaches.
For grape producers, Anthony Peccoux, assistant professor of plant sciences with the University of Missouri, said the discoveries about growing grapes in Missouri have been very valuable because of the challenging conditions. Climate changes faced in Missouri now become the norm for grape growers in Europe and Australia in 25 or 50 years.
Peccoux offered advice on site selection for a vineyard, soil depth, watering and the types of grapes selected, depending on market trends.
Byers discussed the difference between table grapes and wine grapes. Table grapes are harvested earlier to reduce the sugar and bitterness content. Table grapes are picked at the end of July, while wine grapes are harvested in September. The deeper color of wine grapes also comes from ripening longer on the vine.
The Southwest Center's vineyard has a number of table grape varieties added this year. Byers said the varieties have been spread around to see how well they do and learn about their growth patterns.
Andrew Thomas, research assistant professor of horticulture and agroforestry, provided a walking tour of the center's garden. He explained how the simply constructed winter greenhouse can stay warm on a winter day. A grant has been received for a 50-by-90-foot high tunnel green house that will be built this fall.
The center's elderberry crop has been in high demand by researchers studying the medicinal value of the high anti-oxidant fruit. The most promising research appears to be in aiding stroke recovery.
Thomas had an especially bountiful crop of persimmons this year. The center grows 28 varieties of persimmons on about 100 trees, some of which are quite flavorful. Thomas remains hopeful the fruit, though hard to market because of its softness when ripe, could become a staple product since it is a native Missouri plant that grows easily.
Thomas showed off a number of plants that he felt could be marketed as decorations and the prairie patch, where researchers study the natural tendencies of southwest Missouri traditional plants.
Thomas also led a walking touring around the center grounds identifying 40 different trees. A fan of most of the tree varieties, Thomas cautioned against having sycamores in yards because of the volume of droppings, the messiness of dealing with walnuts near a house, and the difficulty of finding the flowering catalpa tree, which blooms like an orchid and grows easily in the area.
Because of the weather, the Southern Missouri Beekeepers moved their exhibit inside the barn with other equipment and ag product vendors. Leon and Peggy Riggs said display prompted many questions from the walking traffic.