Group Study Projects, or GSPs, are small, specialized groups taught by expert faculty from various Tennessee agricultural schools. These hands-on projects allow scholars to experience firsthand the science and technology associated with agriculture and natural resources management. Students participating in TGSAS choose a topic similar to the list below.
Crop Production and Management
Instructor: Dr. Eric Walker
Introduction: To better appreciate and understand production agriculture, students will be introduced and involved in all aspects of crop production and management. As a result, participating students will become future advocates of agriculture regardless of career path. Students will also participate in applied research throughout GSP. Dr. Walker will be involved in all lesson experiments and lesson teaching or activities.
Lesson 1: Crop budgeting and marketing – Students will be taught the importance and necessity of crop budgeting,
financing, and marketing. Students will complete a crop budget. – Dr. Joey Mehlhorn, UTM, Dr. Chuck Dannehower,
UT Extension, and lender or producer
Lesson 2: Soil pH and fertility – Students will be taught basic soil fertility principles, then collect, package, and process
soil samples. Discussion of results will follow. – Dr. Paula Gale, UTM, and Dr. Edwin Ritchey, UK
Lesson 3: Ground preparation – Students will learn the need for no-till crop production in some circumstances and
reasons for tillage in other circumstances. Students will drive tractor and till the soil. – Dr. Blake Brown, MREC,
Mr. Charlie Rowlett, UTM, and Mr. Donald Norlund, UTM.
Lesson 4: Crop breeding and variety development – Students will be introduced to basic crop breeding, trait
inheritance, and selection and incorporation of desirable traits. Students will also learn basic biotechnology principles.
Students will conduct basic experiments in crop breeding and biotechnology – Dr. Barb Darroch, UTM
Variety and selection – Students will be taught the importance of variety selection – Mr. Bob Williams, UT Extension
Lesson 5: Planting – Students will be taught plant population and crop planting principles, equipment, and planter
calibration and set-up. Students will be introduced to RTK auto-steer and variable rate planting. Students will plant as
straight as they can, then compare their rows to RTK auto-steer rows. Students will perform a literature search on the
effect of plant population and light interception on yield, then conduct an experiment examining the effect of plant
population on light interception and present the results. – John Deere representative from Tennessee Tractor,
Dr. Angela McClure, UT Extension, and producer demonstration
Lesson 6: Pest Control in Major Crops –
Weeds – Students will learn weed identification, the concept of the critical weed-free period, and the problem, prevalence, and management of herbicide-resistance weeds. Students will conduct a weed control experiment, visual rate the efficacy of the different treatments, then analyze, summarize, and present the results. – Millington glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth, Dr. Larry Steckel, UT Extension
Insects – Students will learn the effects and symptoms of insect damage and defoliation. Students will also be taught how to scout for insects using sweep nets and insect identification. – Dr. Scott Stewart
Disease and nematodes – Students will learn about basic plant disease concepts, identification, culture, and prevention/
management. Students will also learn about nematodes, sampling and identification of nematodes, and nematode management. – Dr. Melvin Newman, UT Extension, Dr. Alemu Mengistu, USDA-ARS, and Dr. Pat Donald, USDA-ARS
Lesson 7: Sprayer calibration – Students will be taught sprayer calibration methods, then calibrate a sprayer. Students
will observe a airplane spraying demonstration. – Rainey, Obion Co.
Lesson 8: Water requirements – Students will learn historical precipitation trends for region over years and during the
cropping season. The students will be taught how various crop stages align with seasonal precipitation patterns.
Students will also be introduced to irrigation and irrigation scheduling. Students will be introduced to different types of
irrigation methods. – Dr. Todd Albert, UTM, and state Extension specialist
Lesson 9: Crop harvest – Students will learn the function, different parts, and adjustments of a combine. Students will
observe custom harvest of wheat. – coordinate with Dr. Jeff Edwards, OSU Extension on custom harvest of wheat
Organic Farming and Turf-Grass Science
Instructors: Drs. Paula Gale and Wes Totten
Introduction: This group study project will look at various aspects of organic vegetable production and turf-grass science. We will discover what is involved in organic production, explore niche markets and visit some organic producers. Using the community garden and greenhouse facilities we’ll evaluate organic options for weed and pest control. Many turf-grass science industries will be discussed and explored, plus experiential learning opportunities at the UT-Martin 42,500 square foot USGA golf green, local nurseries, and greenhouses.
- Plant and maintain gardens using organic and integrated pest management techniques
- Investigate composting and nutrient cycling as they relate to plant nutrition
- Visits to conventional and organic vegetable producers and farms in the state
- Experience examples of the rapidly growing and versatile industry of turf-grass science
- Hands-on experiences with various turf-grasses in golf course and sports turf settings
- Tours of a sod farm and golf course
Demonstration of the scientific method:
TGSAS students will use the scientific method to conduct plot research. Past groups have compared conventional vs. organic and made potential growth media using a bioassay.
Relevance to TGSAS mission:
This GSP will allow the participants to explore organic production for both its strengths and weaknesses. Students will learn why turf-grass science has become increasingly important to the agricultural job market.
Instructor: Dr. Jason Roberts
Introduction: The Veterinary Science GSP will present the students with the opportunity to observe and learn about the diversity of career opportunities in veterinary medicine, animal care of both farm and companion animals and perform a basic research project on companion animals from local humane shelters.
Research Project: The companion animal research project will involve obtaining diagnostic samples, performing treatments, analyzing diagnostic samples and comparing the results. The companion animals will then be returned to the humane shelters in better health and ready for adoption. The students will familiarize themselves with pre-diagnostic, diagnostic and therapeutic options available in veterinary medicine. The project will also include visits to humane shelters, veterinary clinics, swine farms, a dairy, an equine therapeutic riding center and the University teaching farm which is the home of cattle, sheep and horses.
Objective: The objective of the veterinary science project is to allow students the opportunity to observe hands on care and treatment for a variety of species while also learning the health needs of the individual animals themselves.
Diversities in Veterinary Medicine: The students will also have the opportunity to observe necropsies in the West Tennessee Diagnostic Lab as cases are available. Topics on different careers in veterinary medicine and different usages of our animal friends will also be discussed. At the conclusion of the group study project, each student will leave with a greater understanding of and respect for the veterinary profession and the responsibility involved in caring for companion and farm animals.
Engineering Tomorrow’s Agriculture
Week 1 - (Dr. Tim Burcham and Dr. Sandy Mehlhorn)
- Students will learn about the Global Positioning System (GPS) and how it relates to precision agriculture.
- Students will learn how to incorporate data into a Geographic Information System (GIS) and how GIS is used in precision agriculture.
- Tour of the Tyson Poultry Production Facility – Tour includes all phases of poultry production.
- The TGSAS Scholars will develop a written report covering all Week 1 topics.
Week 2 – Alternative Fuels and Other Energy Sources (Dr. Tim Burcham)
- Ethanol – Students will study the basic sciences associated with ethanol production using various sugar sources as a feedstock. A comparison will be made between the yield of ethanol from the fermentation of four different sugar sources with and without the use of certain enzymes. Students will develop a written report on their research findings that follows all aspects of the Experimental Method.
- Students will study the practical and theoretical aspects of power generation from hydrocarbon, wind, water, nuclear, and solar sources.
- Students will learn about automotive technologies such as hybrid vehicles, diesel powered vehicles, and electric vehicles.
- Students will develop individual written reports on other assigned topics associated with biofuels. These reports provide students with an opportunity to share findings with their peers, while expanding the scope of their biofuels/alternative-energy knowledge.
Weeks 3 & 4 Engineering Design and Construction (Dr. Sandy Mehlhorn)
- Students will learn about different construction materials and their properties.
- Students will perform tests on different materials to compare compressive and tensile strengths.
- Students will learn proper methods for operating various shop tools.
- Students will apply engineering principles to design and construct an engineering project.
- A written report will be developed describing the activities associated with designing and building the project.