Longtime Stoddard County agronomist to retire

Monday, June 20, 2011
University of Missouri Extension Agronomy Specialist David Guethle checks on a moth trap alongside a corn field just southeast of Dexter. Guethle will be retiring from his longtime post with the extension office after 20 years at the Bloomfield facility. (Noreen Hyslop/The Daily Statesman)

BLOOMFIELD, Mo. -- After a lifetime career in agronomy a local farming specialist plans to retire at the end of June.

David Guethle will be leaving his post as an agronomy specialist at the University of Missouri Extension office in Bloomfield.

"I won't be resting long," the 20-year veteran agronomist says of the days ahead.

"My goal is to not do anything, and take a break from that periodically to rest," he smiles, but that's not a real vision for someone whose life has evolved around soil and service.

With his vast experience in the agriculture realm, Guethle hopes to serve as a consultant in the ag industry following his retirement, at least on a part-time basis.

There hasn't been a moment in Guethle's life when he has not been involved in some fashion within the world of agriculture. Born to a family of farmers just southeast of Dexter, he was reared on a 210-acre dairy and row-crop farm, the second born in a family of five Guethle brothers.

"We milked every morning and all of us learned how to plant and plow at an early age," he recalls of his days growing up harvesting corn, soybeans, wheat, grain sorghum, and sometimes cotton.

Helping on the family farm was always a priority, but while in high school, basketball grew to be a close second.

Taking no credit for his skills on the court, Guethle laughs, "I was too tall to be a guard and too short for center, but I could dribble with both my hands and my feet."

His skills, however, were polished enough to earn him a spot on the freshmen team at the University of Missouri-Columbia. And while the basketball didn't last, an interest in agriculture did. He studied agronomy, eventually earning first a bachelor's and in 1975 a master's degree.

His knowledge in the field landed him positions in research with the university in Columbia, the Soil Conservation Service and Arkansas State University, and in 1992 he began to serve as the Extension Agronomy Specialist with the University of Missouri, headquartered at the Bloomfield extension office.

A lot has changed over Guethle's 20-year stint with the extension service.

"Probably the most significant change is the manner in which we obtain information from soil samples and horticulture information and make that information readily accessible to the public," he said.

That method, Guethle stresses, is thanks to the digital world of technology at hand in today's society.

In his role advising area farmers and gardeners regarding pesticide applications, herbicide drift, carry-over determinations, and home horticulture, samples are often taken and tested with results immediately posted to a website that then provides instant feedback. This process is opposed to the systems used in the 1990s that often required several days to ship soil samples and wait for mailed results.

The office of an agronomist is like no other. While some offices are cluttered with faxes and memos, file folders and photos, a visitor to Guethle's office is more apt to find buckets of dirt and corn stalks with problematic root systems -- each awaiting his determinations.

His task as an agronomist has been very much like that of a troubleshooter, constantly being called upon to analyze and offer technical assistance to farmers, pesticide dealers and homeowners who have pest control issues. He has also served as secretary of the Stoddard County Soil and Water Conservation District with corresponding duties and on the Bootheel RC&D Council as well.

Guethle is well known in the county for having continually provided information on a variety of agronomic issues to those in need, and as well for his expertise in advising crop growers and homeowners on horticultural information dealing with landscaping and soil fertility.

He sports a well-groomed garden and yard of his own just south of Dexter where he'll no doubt continue to put his expertise to good use. And there will no doubt be more visits in his immediate future to the Guethle farming operation where three of his four brothers carry on the work of their father.

Once a kid plays in the dirt, it seems, it's just in the blood.

Pertinent address:

Bloomfield, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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