From soybeans to corn to wheat, D’Avian Phillips learned new techniques in farming this summer during an internship with Nutrien Ag Solutions Tennessee/Western Kentucky division.
The 21-year-old Cadiz resident spent nearly five months at the Bruce Research Farm on Fort Campbell Boulevard in Hopkinsville. The research station is a corn, wheat and soybean rotation farm, owned by Mike Bruce.
“I enjoy equipment and being in the field — just being behind the wheel and getting to see it in the field and understanding how it works and different ways to use it,” he said. “The technology and equipment is starting to progress, so (I’m) learning to use that in ways that help to maximize the growers’ profits.”
Phillip’s supervisor, Dustin Dossett, has been Nutrien’s research farm manager since 2012. Dossett said the farm plants different types of hybrid crops in different soil types across 90 acres of land to gain information about growing strategies for farmers.
“We use this farm as a training tool for our salesmen, as well. That’s one reason Nutrien has this out here. Everybody can learn — our new salesmen, our young salesmen, our interns,” Dossett said. “... That’s what’s great about the research farm. We’re always learning every day.”
Phillips grew up working on his grandfather’s horse and cattle farm. After co-op-ing as a Trigg County High School senior at RB Farms in Cadiz, he is pursuing agriculture as a career. He is senior Agriculture Systems and Technology major at Murray State University.
To get the Nutrien internship, Phillips attended MSU’s Hutson School of Agriculture career fair after a professor promised him extra credit for a class.
“I’m not the kind of person to go around a crowd of people and not know nobody, so I went for the extra credit, and it ended up paying off in the long run,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic cut short Phillips’ in-person school year, so he started his Nutrien internship a month early in April.
“We were out here trying to plant corn and soybeans,” Dossett said. “He was just thrown into the fire at my busiest time of the year.”
During the past few months, Phillips helped with a variety of trials with different seeds, herbicide treatments, in-furrow fertility, 2x2 treatments with corn and corn hybrids.
“It’s like drinking out of a fire hydrant here,” he said. “We’ve got over 70 different studies going on out here.”
To catch samples of freshly harvested wheat for testing, Phillips spent a hot, humid Saturday in June lifting a 12- to 15-foot PVC pipe up to a combine auger. Using a few ounces of wheat collected in a plastic bucket, he logged data onto a spreadsheet to compare to different grain study samples from several 18-acre plots across the farm.
“We test the moisture. We can calculate the test weight along with the bushels to determine the difference in the studies,” he said. “This is my first time being a part of a research farm and participating in weighing grain in a study.”
Interns have worked at the research farm every summer since 2013. Dossett said internships are key to making contacts with key agriculture professionals, while learning skills on the job.
“Out of college, they are looking for people who can put their shoes on and go out the door and don’t have to be pushed,” Dossett said. “When you get into the agronomy world and the retail of ag, you have to be a self-starter. Something has to be done and you do it. That’s what I try to teach.”
This summer Phillips’ focus project was a dollar-for-dollar test plot looking at 9-23-30 granular fertilizer vs. an all liquid, in-furrow fertility program. Last Friday, he made a focus project presentation to the Nutrien division managers.
Phillips said the internship has been beneficial in his pursuit of knowledge and in preparing for a career.
“I feel like you’re gaining knowledge and getting experience for the future,” he said. “So, if I do decide to continue with Nutrien and a position comes open, I’ll be able to know what’s going on. I’ll have the networks and the connections throughout the company because I meet new people every day. I get to see what everybody does. That’s what I feel an internship is about. You’re evaluating the company and the company is evaluating you.”