Agronomist helps build profitability

Matthew Weaver/Capital Press Aaron Esser shows off a wireworm trap he designed to help farmers determine how much of the pest they have in their fields.

Research work with producers 'second-best job around'

By MATTHEW WEAVER

Capital Press

Aaron Esser monitored a satellite image of his field trials on a computer in his office in Ritzville, Wash., one July afternoon.

"Ten years ago, this wasn't even possible," he said with evident amazement. "It will be interesting to see where we end up in the next 10 years."

As Washington State University Extension's area agronomist for Lincoln and Adams counties, Esser believes it's a great time to be in agriculture. There is an infinite number of things to be working on and great advances in technology, he said.

Esser grew up on a farm near Genesee, Idaho. Upon graduating from the University of Idaho with a degree in agricultural science, he was hired as an on-farm testing associate and eventually transferred to his current position.

"I've made comments to growers before that I have the second-best job around and they have the best job around," Esser said.

Esser, who is also Adams County extension director, has worked with area growers 11 years, helping them implement conservation farming practices and improving overall profitability.

His biggest focuses are wireworm management, no-till fallow seeding and testing varieties of wheat and canola to determine their impact on farming operations.

Esser also conducts many large-scale, on-farm trials, working with growers to study varieties of wheat and winter canola and to test equipment.

Both large-scale farm research and smaller plot research have their place, Esser said. He is limited by the amount of treatments or variety tests he can do because of the larger size of his trials, he said, but he gets to examine a lot more terrain.

Lincoln County farmer Mark Sheffels has worked with Esser on several large-scale trials, most recently studying wireworm control.

"When you work on a larger scale, it gives you more accurate information regarding what you'll actually see in a real-life field condition, especially with something like wireworm, which are very spotty," Sheffels said.

Sheffels said he appreciates Esser's efforts to work over a wide range of geographic areas and growing conditions within his region.

"He's working within multiple disciplines and working on real-life problems," Sheffels said. "He'll look at problems we deal with right at farm level. He's willing to gather (farmers') opinions, check them for validity and work with them."

Washington Grain Commission Commissioner Dana Herron said Esser has the ability to focus on common, general problems in detail, quantifying and promoting his research.

"I think he attends more grower meetings than I do," Herron said. "I like his approach, and I love his enthusiasm. He's not afraid to think outside the box, and that's what we need."

Aaron Esser

Occupation: Area agronomist for Lincoln and Adams counties, Adams County director, WSU Extension

Age: 38

Hometown: Genesee, Idaho

Current location: Ritzville, Wash.

Family: Wife, Jodie, and four children, Brooke, 14; Bryce, 10; Blake, 5 and Brenik, 2

Education: University of Idaho

Quote: "It all comes down to profitability. You may get the most bushels in the world, but if it costs more than what you're traditionally doing ... Profitability is still revenue minus cost equals profit."

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