Fort Hays State University > About FHSU > Academic Divisions > College of Health and Life Sciences > Department of Agriculture > University Farm > For Parents Only Article
For Parents Only Newsletter
by Kurt Beyers
At Right: Levi Getz, a Gove senior majoring in animal science at
FHSU, and Dr. Neil Patrick, assistant professor of agriculture,
demonstrate the integration of satellite technology into practical
applications in the field last summer at the University Farm.
Undergraduate agriculture students at
Fort Hays State University this past summer began reaping a harvest
of satellites and computers as well as grain during wheat harvest
on the University Farm.
The yield was monitored by an on-board computer and global positioning
satellites to develop a computer generated map of how much wheat
came from every part of the field. With other maps of such things
as soil fertility, pH levels and weed infestation, the information
can later be used by other computers, guided by global positioning
satellites, to vary the amount of chemicals or seed applied from
one section of the field to another. This is precision agriculture, a system of software
and machinery designed and built to optimize a farmer's efficiency
and profit margin, said Dr. John R. Greathouse, chair of FHSU's
Department of Agriculture. ‘‘It's very exciting that we are at the
very beginning stages of the practical application of this technology,’’
said Greathouse. ‘‘We at FHSU have positioned ourselves
as a premier institution in the country to offer precision agriculture
instruction at the undergraduate level,’’ he said. For Dr. Bob Stephenson, associate professor of agriculture,
who led the harvest team, the advantage to undergraduates is that
they will be able to enter the agricultural marketplace and go to
work for any of the companies that are developing precision agriculture
systems: John Deere, Farmland Industries, Servitech, Crop Quest,
Collingwood Grain, Caterpillar and others. ‘‘Our idea is to provide our students
with training and understanding of precision farming,’’
said Stephenson. ‘‘As far as I know,’’ said
Stephenson, ‘‘we will be the only institution in the
Great Plains or Midwest region that will get our undergraduate students
hands-on experience with precision farming.’’ It is the combination of a farm owned by the university
and the specialized equipment that makes FHSU a unique laboratory
for providing undergraduates with on-the-job experience in precision
farming. FHSU President Dr. Edward H. Hammond was the catalyst.
‘‘He came to the Agriculture Department
and asked us what we needed to get into the high-tech arena,"
said Greathouse. The department then produced a plan and a list
of the equipment needed to carry it out. ‘‘This is just another step in the plan
to extend the high-tech curriculum to all areas of the campus,"
said Hammond. ‘‘I am happy to help provide our undergraduate
agriculture students with the same kind of technological advantages
that so many of our other students enjoy,’’ he said.
John Deere provided a $151,000 combine for the harvest,
a Maximizer 9510 which is a component of Deere's trademarked GreenStar
precision farming systems. Farmland Industries provided the software.
The combine was equipped with a mass-flow sensor, which gave a continuous
measurement and read-out of the quantity of grain being harvested,
and a computer, which correlated the yield information with continuous
satellite readings. The resulting data was used to create a yield
map of the field.
‘‘I think the key here is that
we are cooperating with the major companies who are at the forefront
of precision agriculture technology,’’ he said.