Precision agriculture yields Script Ohio in soybeans

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Script Ohio in soybeans
The power of prescription planting, as seen from the air near the Farm Science Review grounds. The difference in soybean maturity between the two prescriptions is what gives the field its distinctive color variation. (Photo: Ohio State FABE/Andrew Klopfenstein.)

LONDON, Ohio — On their way to the 56th annual Farm Science Review, Sept. 18-20, some 130,000 visitors will likely pass hundreds of acres of soybean fields. But one field in particular is sporting more Buckeye pride than any other.

From an aerial view, the world’s largest Script Ohio emerges from a 100-acre field just east of the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, site of the Review.

For the past four years, the Ohio State University’s Precision Agriculture program has demonstrated GPS-guided “smart planting” using multiple corn hybrids. The team brought Buckeye spirit to the field with a simple block “O” in 2015, Brutus Buckeye in 2016, and Ohio State Athletics Block O last year.

Now, the team has brought the Ohio State marching band’s famous Script Ohio to a soybean field.

How they did it

“We decided to start and continue this project to show the potential of new multi-hybrid/variety planting technology and demonstrate that it can complete tasks with accuracy and precision to the point of making logos in field scenes,” said Andrew Klopfenstein, senior research associate engineer in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

The Script Ohio demonstration of precision agriculture is thanks to components from Precision Planting that turn a traditional planter into a “smart planter.” From the monitor, farmers can control the plant population and hybrid type planted in coordination with a mapping of GPS coordinates.

“This year’s design was slightly more difficult than some of the previous years because it was a single continuous piece with more curves than we had attempted in the past,” said Ryan Tietje, research associate and graduate student in FABE, who designed the past two field demonstrations.

Although more difficult, Script Ohio also had many similarities to previous years’ designs.

“It’s still a multi-hybrid variable rate prescription that utilizes the same Precision Planting technology and equipment as in years past,” Tietje said. “However, this year’s design is very different in that we used soybean plants — the last three years have all been in corn.”

The difference in soybean maturity between the two prescriptions is what gives the field its distinctive color variation between the more mature and yellowing Script Ohio versus the rest of the healthy green field.

Practical purpose

The demonstration proves the practical benefits of precision planting, too.

“There are benefits to matching plant hybrids/varieties to soil landscape,” Klopfenstein said. “Farmers in the future will consider multiple factors when generating prescriptions. Some of these factors may include moisture holding capacity, soil organic matter content, slope, and historical yield data.”

By creating a map using GPS coordinates, a grower can program their planter to distribute less seed to an area with rocky terrain with an expected lower yield as opposed to an area rich in organic matter where higher plant populations will increase productivity.

“We’ve seen a 6.1 bushel per acre benefit in corn and a 1.9 bushel per acre gain in soybeans,” Klopfenstein said.

Over the past four years, there have been few or no changes mechanically to the planters used in this demonstration, Klopfenstein said. This past year, Precision Planting introduced mSet, which allows the use of SpeedTube (high speed planting) in conjunction with multi-hybrid planter technology.

“We hope in the future to be able to combine our high-speed and multi-hybrid testing on one planter and continue to draw the interest of growers.”

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