An intensive educational program for the state’s grain producers will premiere this winter thanks to the efforts of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Kentucky Corn Growers Association and the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board.

The Grain Crops Academy’s goal is to improve farm profitability and sustainability through a better understanding of the science of grain crops production. The in-depth program includes 3.5 days of information on all aspects of production from soil fundamentals to yield physiology.

Producers need to have as much knowledge as possible in order to compete in today’s grain production industry, said Warren Whitaker, program coordinator and UK research specialist. Production inputs are high, and new technologies are always being developed for improved efficiency and sustainability. This program will help farmers keep up with the latest developments as well as the science behind them, he said.

Grains are an important part of Kentucky’s farm economy. In 2006, farm sales of corn and soybeans were among the top five farm commodities in gross receipts in the state, totaling more than $650 million and accounting for more than 16.6 percent of the total farm receipts, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. The 2007 harvest is well under way, and farmers are expected to harvest 1.34 million acres of corn and 1.14 million acres of soybeans.

The grains academy pilot program will begin in January at the UK Research and Education Center in Princeton. Participants for the first class are already in place and will be coming from Henderson, Union, Webster, Daviess, Hancock, Ballard, Christian and McLean counties.

Whitaker said they wanted to limit the number of participants in the pilot program in order to get the program off to a good start and have something to build on in future years.

In the future, the program will likely be offered on a regional basis so producers across the state will be able to take advantage of the educational opportunity, he said.

Specialists from the College of Agriculture will conduct most of the training.

The two-year pilot program is being funded by the Kentucky Corn Growers Association from funds approved by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board.