On Saturday, July 11, a group of researchers at Iowa State University labs ran by Pat Schnable, agronomy, and Lie Tang, agricultural engineering, toured the farm of Larry and Bonnie Buss in Logan, Iowa. The group discussed a wide range of topics, with the broad goal of increasing awareness of agriculture’s needs, and strengthening relationships between the University and the Iowa Corn Growers Association, who organized the event. The group learned about farming practices, commodity markets, agricultural equipment, and ways in which these aspects of agriculture have changed through the years.
Farm size, yield per acre, and ability to farm sloping fields have all increased in recent decades. Farmers are able to accurately plant rows with partly-automated location-optimized spacing, gather large quantities of relevant data, and numerous other feats which were previously impossible.
Part of the progress can be attributed to the technology seen on this tour. Modern agriculture includes GPS-guided planters, behemoth combines, massive silos, highly-efficient harvesters, and numerous other technological marvels. Seeing the puzzle completely assembled and running smoothly was a welcomed sight and an enriching experience to the visitors, who regularly come together, from diverse intellectual backgrounds, to collaborate on projects intended to improve various aspects of agriculture.
With so many recently advances in agriculture, Larry Buss informed the group of several challenges he still sees emerging. Issues such as water quality, affected by pesticide and herbicide use, need to be addressed. Additionally, many types of weeds are growing resistant to herbicides. Solutions to both include more environmentally-friendly pesticides, mechanical weeders, or improved strains of crops which require fewer chemicals and fertilizers. Most researchers present were working toward at least one of these solutions. As I just learned from iowacornstalk.com, “From 1980 to 2010, U.S. farmers increased corn production by 87.5% while using 4% less fertilizer inputs. (source).” I am proud of those who made this happen, and am sure that together we can go further.
As you can see in the pictures below, the group of roughly 30 people, spanning all ages, came well prepared for the pleasant Iowa morning, and a good time was had by all.
I send thanks to the Iowa Corn Growers Association for helping with this event and the Buss’s for sharing their farm. As usual, Go Cyclones!
-Guest post by Dylan Shah from Iowa State University
Dylan Shah works with Dr. Lie Tang at Iowa State University, focusing on robotics, automation, and image processing. He enjoys helping the world achieve efficiency, so society can focus on improving life in other areas. Since graduating in May 2015 in Mechanical Engineering from Iowa State, he has been working on the multidisciplinary Enviratron project through ISU. While not programming, reading journal papers, and studying, he enjoys biking, nature, lively discussions, and reading books on religion and 19th and early 20th century science and economics.