This story also appears in our University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources’ Agricultural Research Center Magazine. Stop by your local Research Center to pick up a copy! You can view the magazine online by clicking here: Road to Discovery.
When the Graves-Chapple Research Center first opened its doors in 1988, the goal of the site was to demonstrate the viability of no-till farming practices in northwest Missouri. To help express their confidence in the system, all trials and demonstrations at Graves-Chapple were conducted using no-till, a practice that continues to this day.
The Center provides research-based information to area producers under local conditions. Whether it is flood, drought, insect pressure, resistant weeds or new technologies, the goal of the site is to try and demonstrate products and techniques to increase profitability for producers in the region.
Local producer Steve Klute has seen that work firsthand. Klute’s family has been farming in Atchison County since the 1920s. He has continued the tradition, farming with his father and son.
Klute has been involved with the Graves-Chapple Research Center since the mid-90s, joining the Center’s advisory board during that time.
“Bob Chapple approached me and asked if I would be interested in joining the board,” Klute said. “Now, they can’t get rid of me.”
Klute has served as the chairman of the advisory board since the late 90s. He is highly involved in helping Graves-Chapple connect with its local producers – and making sure the Center is conducting research pertinent to those farmers.
“The engagement of the advisory board is critical to the continued success of the Graves-Chapple Research Center,” Superintendent Jim Crawford said. “They serve not only as advocates for the work conducted at the Center, but they are our eyes and ears to the public. They bring us the questions that other farmers are asking so we can design research and demonstrations to provide answers to those questions. The advisory board is also instrumental in the success of activities at the Center through their promotion of programs and assistance during the events. We could not conduct such successful events without the assistance of our advisory board.”
Klute’s ties to the University of Missouri go back to high school. Klute helped MU as a crop scout, spending plenty of time in local fields helping farmers make good management decisions.
“I’ve put a lot of miles into the fields of northwest Missouri,” Klute said.
Klute’s farming operation is predominantly row crop. His entire acreage is no-till.
“The Graves-Chapple Research Center has really helped change the opinion on no-till for farmers,” Klute said. “It’s so important to have a research farm of this nature in the area. It’s difficult for farmers to go in and try new things, as they can’t always afford to implement a practice right away when they don’t know if it will benefit their operation. The Graves-Chapple Research Center can do the research on these techniques and provide the information to our farmers.”
The idea for the Graves-Chapple Research Center all started with a letter, written in the late 1980s, by a handful of agriculture agents located in northwest Missouri.
The letter was addressed to then-CAFNR Dean Roger Mitchell and written by Wayne Flanary, agronomy specialist; Bob Chapple, ag engineer; Mike Killingsworth, farm management specialist; and Don Mobley, livestock specialist. The focus of the letter was on the need for a research demonstration site in that corner of the state.
Mitchell was in complete support of the idea.
“We felt that there was an opportunity to connect with the community in a meaningful way,” Flanary said. “We thought the research that would be conducted at this new site would be beneficial for landowners and producers.”
Mitchell gave the group $10,000 in seed money to begin operations. Rex Ricketts, who served as a coordinator of the MU Extension Commercial Agriculture Program for a number of years, also contributed to make the site a reality.
“After we received the letter from Dean Mitchell, we had to find a location,” Flanary said. “We were looking in both Holt and Atchison counties and had a few ideas. Bob knew of a site that just might work, though.”
Chapple’s good friend, Donald Graves, had some acres along I-29 between Corning and Rock Port in Atchison County that would work well for a research and demonstration site.
“Bob and Donald were great friends,” Flanary said. “Bob would even take a few vacation days and farm for Donald.”
Graves lent the group a tractor and other equipment and things were off and running. The Graves Farm was officially unveiled in 1988.
“We worked out of our pickups that first year,” Flanary said. “There were no buildings or facilities. It was just land.
“It was just neat that Dean Mitchell thought enough to approve our vision. He would come up often and sent many letters of thank you to us. He was very interactive when he was on site.”
The friendship between Graves and Chapple was a key part of the development of the Graves-Chapple Research Center. Donald Graves passed away in 1989. Bob Chapple passed in 2013. Their devotion to agriculture made the Graves-Chapple Research Center a reality.
“I was handed the reins of something great,” Crawford said. “Donald, Bob and the rest of the group put a lot of work into making this Center an outstanding tool for local landowners. Our research will always be focused on what the producers want. It’s a tribute to those guys as well.”
Crawford and Flanary continue to bring useful research to the producers in the area. Both individuals have MU Extension appointments as well, tying them even closer to the local producers in their community.
“As Extension agents, Jim and Wayne serve not only as researchers and agricultural leaders, they are teachers,” Klute said. “They are in direct contact with farmers on a regular basis and that type of relationship is incredibly important.”
Klute has not only taken the Graves-Chapple Research Center research to heart, he helps during the annual field day, the annual FFA day and the numerous other educational events that the Center hosts.
“These outreach events help us bring agriculture to not only our producers, but several individuals who may not even know anything about agriculture,” Klute said. “That’s exciting to me – and extremely important. What we’re doing here really matters.”