New U of I Extension handbooks available

New U of I Extension handbooks available

By Gary Beaumont, University of Illinois College of ACES

Urbana—There are a lot of high-tech tools at the fingertips of the professional agricultural community these days, from computer-generated precision farming programs to Web sites that calculate data and report up-to-the-minute crop conditions. Information is in large supply, and University of Illinois Extension is a leading information provider, offering traditional handbooks, online newsletters and expanded, interactive Web sites to meet the needs of a diverse clientele. But what clients appreciate most is what U of I Extension has offered from the beginning: reliability. “As technology moves forward, we are bombarded by a staggering amount of information,” said John Reifsteck, a leading corn and soybean producer in Champaign County. “I appreciate receiving all the information, but it’s easy to get confused about what the facts really are. I want to be able to evaluate what I’m sent and make my decisions based on the most reliable data.”

For that, Reifsteck said he turns to the experts in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois and specifically to the “Illinois Agronomy Handbook.”

“The ‘handbook’ gives me reliable research that I can use to judge the information at hand. It’s my grounding tool. I trust that information,” Reifsteck said.

Reifsteck pushed for the development of the interactive online handbooks and couldn’t be happier with the results.

“There are times when I want more information about a specific topic than the printed handbook can offer,” Reifsteck explained. “I may want a more detailed look at the research that the information in the book is based on, which is just a link or two away online.

“The online handbook also has more frequent updates,” Reifsteck continued. “Particularly with insect management, frequent updates are important. I’m also a big fan of the online version of the ‘Pest Management and Crop Development Bulletin’,” he added. “I use it frequently.”

Indeed, crop protection and pest management are prime topics in a climate of falling market prices and a shaky economy. Kevin Black, an agronomist for GROWMARK, Inc., who specializes in insecticide and fungicide technology, spends much of his day fielding questions from clients about insect pests and crop protection strategies. When calls come in, Black goes online to consult the “Illinois Agricultural Pest Management Handbook” and the “Illinois Agronomy Handbook.”

“With our high-speed lines, I can find the information I’m looking for quickly,” Black explained. “I save the links as favorites and can be where I need to be in a matter of seconds.”

Black noted that the calculators and other interactive components of the online handbooks are additional timesavers.

“When I’m out in the field, though, there is no substitute for the print manuals,” Black said. “The ‘Agricultural Pest Management Handbook,’ the ‘Agronomy Handbook’ and the ‘Field Crop Scouting Manual’ are always in a file box within my vehicle.”

But for Black, as for Reifsteck and many others in agriculture, the handbook’s most valuable feature is still trustworthiness. Black has confidence in resources he knows he can safely consult when he may be unsure of an answer or when he feels he needs support for a recommendation.

“We have a lot of cross-over duties in our office,” Black explained. “While my main area is entomology, I may need to answer a call about fertilizers or crop production. In a case like that, the handbooks are extremely valuable. I don’t worry about the reliability of the information in the handbooks,” he said.

Then there are the tricky questions, the ones that come in about uncommon secondary insect pests. These pests can be just as troublesome to clients who are experiencing the problems, and “I know I can find the information I need in the ‘Pest Management Handbook,’” said Black.

Both Reifsteck and Black use the handbooks frequently, whether via the Internet in their offices or thumbing through the manuals out in the field. “The handbooks are a necessary tool, a necessary part of doing business,” Black concluded.

For information on ordering printed copies of the “Illinois Agronomy Handbook, 23rd Edition,” (C1383) the “Illinois Agricultural Pest Management Handbook” (IAPM-03) or the searchable CD-ROM version of the new handbooks (SET221-03-CD), call 1-800-345-6087, log onto or visit your local U of I Extension office.

Gary Beaumont University of Illinois

College of ACES 1301 W. Gregory Dr.,

Urbana, IL 61801; 217-333-9440; FAX: 217-333-2614; E-Mail:

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