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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (April 23, 1975)
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Drs. Thomas Thompson (left) and James Kendrick, developers of the AGNET computer system
A GNET: Farmers' computer link.
By Don McCabe
Since January, western Nebraskans
have been able to calculate livestock feed
rations and growth costs with the aid of
Last fall, UNL East Campus professors
began using computers as aids in the
The computer system these people
share is the Agriculture Computing
Network (AGNET), an interactive
computing system developed by the
Institute of Agriculture and Natural
Interactive computing is a system
where computation results are available
immediately to the operator of a
computer terminal. Dr, James Kendrick,
agricultural economist and AGNET
consultant, said that although interactive
computing is not a new concept, AGNET
is a further development of the system.
By the use of one or two key access
words, he said, a user can gain access to a
program in the computer. This enables
people with no previous knowledge of
computers to use them, he said.
When a program, such as feed
rationing, begins, instructions on how to
use the program are available. The
computer "talks" to the user as it guides
him or her through the program by asking
questions and catching errors.
If the user needs explanation of data,
"help" and "stop" procedures are
available. Kendrick said the system never
leaves the user lost or frustrated because
of these explanations.
Components of the system include
portable and permanent terminals that
are linked by telephone to the IBM 370
central computer at the state capitol and
T.V. monitors that show the results. The
telephone hookup allows the system to
be used wherever a portable terminal is
carried, Kendrick said.
Data for the programs have been
complied from many East Campus
professors. These researchers have fed this
information into the computers in the
form of programs. A list of these
programs is also available to the user at
"Before, people thought years of
training were required to operate
computers," Kendrick said. By using the
access words, he said, children as young
as four-year-old can obtain and use a
Panhandle has one
Dr. Thomas Thompson, AGNET
consultant, said AGNET was established
to "facilitate teaching, research and
extension work of the Institute of
Agriculture and Natural Resources."
Thompson, an agriculture engineer, has
been working with Kendrick for almost a
year in the development of AGNET.
AGNET pilot project began at the NU
Panhandle Station in Scottsbluff in
January. Two portable terminals, one
each at Kimball and Box Butte, and a
permanent terminal at the Scottsbluff
station are included in the system.
Dr. Robert Retzlaff of the station said
it is used by agronomists, livestock
specialists and ranchers to calculate
feed-mix rations, cost sensitivity analyses
for beef growing and to check soil
samples. A food nutritionist at the station
also uses a diet-check analysis program.
In the feed-mix program, growers can
learn the percentage of ingredients in a
particular feed ration, Retzlaff said.
The cost sensitivity analysis, he said,
allows the grower to assess the feed
ingredients cost and, thus, the best
possible feed conbinations.
Cattle raisers also can learn how fast
and efficient a calf grows from a beef
grower cost program. Factors used by the
computer in this program include
feed-heat, feeding period and feed costs.
A "Bus-Pac" (business package)
program in the computer allows a farmer
to learn immediately interest and
principle rates when buying land or
machinery, Retzlaff said.
He said as farmers and ranchers in the
area have become more aware of AGNET,
they have become more interested.
"We have been getting an increased
number of calls from county agents
asking about the system" he said.
' Demonstrations of AGNET also have
been given to area cattlemen, he added.
The Institute of Agriculture and
Natural Resources is tentitively planning
to establish an AGNET system at the
Concord Experiment Station by July.
In addition to its field application,
AGNET also is being used in the
classroom by students and professors at
the East Campus. The same programs
used at Scottsbluff are used as teaching
aids in agriculture economics, animal
science and agronomy classes.
AGNET is used in agriculture
engineering to calculate more efficient
and effective grain drying procedures
Thompson said. The agriculture
education department also has used the
system to evaluate its instructors.
Kendrick said that this system would
have great possibilities in schools,
especially elementary. Immediate
feedback, automatic scoring,
personalization and flexibility would be
some of the advantages for the classroom,
"In the past, teachers and schools have
been afraid of computers," he noted.
"With this system we would allow the
teachers to aid in programming the
computer for their students."
Programs for students are geared to
the ability of the user, he said. The
computer will seek out the academic level
of the user, he said, and will never leave
the student lost.
"The computer also gives positive
reinforcement," he added.
Much of the state's progress in if riculture can
be traced to thu work of the linivi-rsiiy of
Nebraska, recording ' to Duanc Acker,
vice-chancelloi if the Institute of Agricul'uie
and Natural Rescurceg.
Acker will resign July 1 to become Lansas
State University president.
According to one survey, 80 to 90 per cent of
agricultural advancement is associated with the
work of land grant colleges. Sixty to 70 per cent
of this can be traced to researcher's discoveries.
The remaining percentage of improvement,
Acker said, results from technological
Graduates from Nebraska agricultural schools
have a high percentage of placement, Acker said.
At Curtis, a two-year vocational agricultural
school, 98 per cent of last year's 109 graduates
found jobs. Of these, 92 per cent AayA in
The university works with farmers through
the extension program, which is a cooperative
effort between specialists on the federal, state
and county levels. 1he extension program on the
county level concentrates on three aspects:
-Education. Night classes are offered on
subjects such as watfr management and
conservation. These classes keep farmers aware of
latest agricultural trends,
Home education programs. The extension
division holds classes on everything from
"how-to" classes such as tailoring classes for
housewives to college-equivalent course;.
-The 4-II clubs. Thirty per cent of extension
work is devoted to working with 45,000 4-1 1
youths in the state, Acker said.
Five district extension offices are scattered
throughout the state, Acker said. These are at
Scottsbluff, North Platte, Clay Center, Concord
and Lincoln. Lincoln is also the center of the
state extension office.
The state extension office serves an editorial
function. The office sends out bulletins about
the latest developments in agriculture research.
The office also funnels some of the UNL
researcher's experimental results to scientific
journals for publication.
Since NU took over the vocational agricultural
center at Mead nine years ago, it has developed
what Acker described as a "very, very strong
The school was accredited by the North
Central Accrediation Association three weeks
ago. Use two-year program offers majors in
agriculture business, land and water management,
agriculture mechanics, production agriculture
and veterinary technology.
The stale's other agriculture station at Mead is
a research center, Acker said. Researchers there
have developed new strains of wheat and
soybeans better suited for Nebraska climate and
soil, he said.
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