World’s Largest Script Ohio Shows the Power of Precision Agriculture

Sep. 6, 2018
Script Ohio demonstrates GPS-guided “smart planting” using multiple soybean hybrids

LONDON, Ohio — On their way to the 56thannual Farm Science Review, Sept. 18-20, over 130,000 visitors will pass thousands 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 London’s Molly Caren Agricultural Center, site of the Review.  

For four straight 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 block “O” in 2015, Brutus Buckeye in 2016, and the university’s Primary Athletic Identitylast year. Now, Precision Agriculture has brought the Ohio State Marching Band’s famous Script Ohio to the soybean field. 

“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 (FABE), part of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

This demonstration of precision agriculture is all 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.

The design for the Script Ohio field before planting“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 has 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. 

While growers and Ohio State fans alike might enjoy seeing more Buckeye-spirited fields pop up across the state, this demonstration aims to prove the practical benefits of precision planting. 

“There are benefits to matching plant hybrids/varieties to soil landscape,” says Klopfenstein, “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 just to name a few.”

By creating one’s own map using GPS coordinates, a grower might 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 have done several years’ worth of studies and have continued to work with Beck’s Superior Hybrids. We have seen a 6.1 bushel per acre benefit in corn and a 1.9 bushel per acre gain in soybeans when all the studies were pulled together,” Klopfenstein said. 

As agricultural technology continues to evolve, Ohio State’s Precision Agriculture program aims to continue to help growers understand the economic and agronomic benefits of such tools. 

The 100-acre Script Ohio with the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in the background“Over the past four years, there have been few or no changes mechanically to the planters used in this demonstration. We have had software updates that have made the meters and monitors run more efficiently, as well as collect more data that can be visualized near real-time in the cab of the tractor,” 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.”

The team extends its thanks to Case IH, Precision Planting and Trimble for making the demonstration possible. Details about the department’s ongoing precision agriculture research are at fabe.osu.edu/programs/precisionag. A podcast discussing the technology is available at go.osu.edu/iTunesAFMor go.osu.edu/StitcherAFM.  

Tickets to Farm Science Review are $7 online, at OSU Extension county offices and participating agribusinesses, and $10 at the gate. Children ages 5 and under are free. Details on event hours, buying tickets online and more are on the Review’s website at fsr.osu.edu.

 

by Chip Tuson

The mature and yellowing soybeans form the script while the healthy green soybeans form the background