Saturday, June 15, 2024

Precision Ag On A New Level

The new UGA-Tifton lab will fuel innovation in precision agriculture.

With the global population expected to increase from 8 billion to 9.7 billion by 2050, agricultural researchers and producers are faced with the looming challenges of how to feed a growing world.

A key tool in the effort to propel Georgia’s No. 1 industry into the future is the expanding field of integrative precision agriculture.

The Tifton Integrative Precision Agriculture Research, Education and Demonstration Laboratory will provide innovative collaborative spaces, top-of-the-line autonomous equipment and job training for the next generation of agricultural leaders.

At the University of Georgia Tifton campus, the new Tifton Integrative Precision Agriculture Research, Education and Demonstration Laboratory will be the first of its kind in the Southeast to provide state-of-the-art collaborative spaces, top-of-the-line autonomous equipment and job training for the next generation of agricultural leaders.

Advancing Integrative Precision Agriculture

The $3.03 million project will include a working lab, electronic labs and office spaces to increase collaboration among graduate students, scientists and industry. The 12,500-square-foot space previously served as the Tifton Rural Development Center before sitting vacant for nearly two decades.

Last month, plans for the lab were signed through this year’s bipartisan government funding package, championed by Rep. Drew Ferguson (GA-03) and carried on the Senate side by Sens. Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock.

“We are thrilled for this opportunity to demonstrate the latest technologies across Georgia’s commodities,” says UGA-Tifton assistant dean Michael Toews. “These labs and collaborative spaces will be within walking distance to agricultural plots, providing stakeholders the ability to see and test technologies for adoption on their farms.”

Sen. Ossoff says, “Food security is national security. Georgia farmers feed the nation and the world. Working alongside Senator Reverend Warnock and Congressman Ferguson, we are delivering new resources with bipartisan support to help the University of Georgia create a new precision agriculture demonstration lab in Tifton and help our state’s top industry continue to thrive. I thank assistant dean of UGA’s Tifton campus Dr. Michael D. Toews for bringing this proposal to my office and for his leadership.”

Driving Innovation And Outreach

Georgia’s agricultural size, breadth and multiple climate zones make it a natural center for agricultural technology development. UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is working to advance precision agriculture across the state and nation through teaching, research and outreach. In spring 2022, the university established the Institute for Integrative Precision Agriculture to serve as a conduit to connect agricultural technology development within UGA and with outside partners like universities and agribusinesses.

In Tifton, repurposing the Rural Development Center will allow CAES students and researchers to solve global agricultural issues, such as targeted irrigation, and meet the need to share advanced agricultural practices among rural communities.

“While CAES projects like the climate-smart 4-D Farm focus on research, this lab will highlight products that have already made it to market and are currently benefiting industry,” Toews says. “Beyond our students, researchers and industry partners, this demo lab will create pathways for outreach to Tift County.—.and rural areas across Georgia — as a whole.”

Follow The UGA Extension Precision Ag Blog

The Tifton Integrative Precision Agriculture Research, Education and Demonstration Laboratory and the climate-smart 4-D Farm will bring new technologies to the farm in the future. Currently, growers can benefit from current precision ag technologies found on their blog, at site.extension.uga.edu/precisionag/, as follows.

Planting Calculations

UGA’s Simer Virk offers some useful formulas to determine seeding rate, seed spacing, number of seeds per foot or assess emerged plant population based on stand counts in certain length of the row. Alternatively, provided tables can be used to determine seeding rate based on seed spacing or assess plant population based on number of plants per foot length of the row.   

Variable-Rate Fertilizer Application Considerations

How accurate are the variable-rate applications when these spreaders are flying through the field? Simer Virk investigates fertilizer application ground speed and accuracy, plus other factors. He offers help in understanding and in making adjustments for more accurate variable-rate fertilizer applications.

Estimating Peanut Harvest Losses

UGA’s Simer Virk and Scott Tubbs note that during peanut harvest, losses are common and can be caused by improper setup, operation and/or performance of the harvest equipment. While harvest losses cannot be not completely eliminated, it is always good to understand the level of losses so appropriate adjustments to harvest equipment settings, operational parameters or harvest decisions can be made to keep these losses to the minimum.

Bringing The Future To The Farm

The climate-smart 4-D Farm is being developed as part of a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The project, The Digital and Data-Driven Demonstration Farm (4-D Farm): Juxtaposition of Climate-Smart and Circular Innovations for Future Farm Economies, is part of NIFA’s investment in regional innovations for climate-smart agriculture and forestry.

Led by principal investigator Glen Rains, the project involves an interdisciplinary team across CAES, including researchers in sustainable precision agriculture, data science, livestock management, grass and forage management, crop production, UGA Extension and education programming, and autonomous and intelligent rover research and development. Two sub awards were given to Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and Clemson University. The project also includes a contracted social economist from Kansas State University.

Construction on the Tifton Integrative Precision Agriculture Research, Education and Demonstration Laboratory is expected to begin in 2025. Learn more about UGA’s efforts in Integrative Precision Agriculture at the website iipa.uga.edu. PG


Article By Jordan Powers, public relations coordinator and writer for UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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