Tim Sharp: Making Precision Agriculture Work In Oklahoma

Tim Sharp, OSU

Toiling away at Jackson State Community College in Jackson, TN, Tim Sharp accomplished the impossible — he put a viable, field-based precision agriculture program for cotton on the map, and he did it in the community college environment. His work got the attention of Cotton Incorporated, the Cotton Foundation, cotton seed producers, and technology manufacturers for its groundbreaking discoveries about the potential input and cost savings technology could deliver to “making cotton.”

In the end, it was not enough to convince the powers that be at Jackson State that it was an investment they needed to sustain, so Sharp packed his bags and looked for greener pastures. After careful consideration, Sharp hitched his wagons and headed for Oklahoma State University’s (OSU) Okmulgee campus to test the mettle of his precision vision in a new location — and even with some crops beyond cotton.

“A land-grant university understands what you are doing and you don’t have to explain everything to everybody,” says Sharp of OSU. “People don’t ask why you need to do research or why students need to be in the field.”

Research is only one aspect of Sharp’s new role at OSU. The bigger task has been creating a comprehensive precision agriculture degree, something he’s been working on since he got full approval to move forward earlier this year. His first class of 10 students have been “thrown to the wolves,” Sharp notes, because so much ground work needs to be done.

“You really rely on your upperclassmen,” he says. “They are really your workforce that you need to train before you can expand your research efforts. So our freshman class is getting force-fed more stuff they would not normally do until after the first year, but I think they are handling it well.”

The precision program is really going to get the chance to spread its wings, says Sharp. The hours requirement is higher, and two engineering courses have been added — Introduction to Ag Electronics, and Precision Agriculture Systems.

“We teach agronomy and GIS (geographic information systems), but there was no way to deal with the hardware like yield monitors, controllers, troubleshooting, and things like that without more engineering technology,” says Sharp. “We added that component — and fortunately, OSU is a school that is steeped in engineering expertise.”

Sharp has carried over some of the industry backing he received in Tennessee, including the National Cotton Council and Cotton Incorporated, as well as manufacturers Ag Leader, SST, and Raven Industries.

Adapting The Research

Along with creating a new course of study, the other big challenge will be determining how much of the research he conducted in Tennessee will transfer to Oklahoma.

The foundation of Sharp’s research into cotton production revolves around the idea that every field can be broken down into zones of production based on plant vigor. In the Mississippi Delta, three distinct zones emerged, which Sharp identified as high, medium, and low.

In high zones, plants will tend to produce more vegetation and less boll yield, whereas in low zones the plant will grow more slowly and mature earlier.
Through use of remote imagery, field scouting, and ground truthing during multiple seasons, these zones not only can be identified, but remain stable from year to year, based on four years of research Sharp conducted in Tennessee.

Using this information, Sharp altered insecticide and plant growth regulator applications and varied seeding rates to take best advantage of the properties of the different zones, and the results were dramatic — lower inputs and higher yields.

“Moving forward, we need to establish the facts in this area — what is different and similar when we change to Southwest cotton,” says Sharp. “I don’t think we will have near the level of work that we did in the Delta, but we do hope to show economic value of our methods in this region.”

Sharp was fortunate to find a farm of similar size and scope on which to test his system. “It’s Southwestern furrow irrigated cotton as opposed to the Delta — it’s a different farming system but the general science of establishing vigor zones, using imagery, taking the first fall image shots, ground truthing, drawing field boundaries, etc. has so far worked well.”

In the Southwest, Sharp has found what he calls “high zone syndrome” — there’s not a true low vigor zone like he commonly found in the Delta. “You have medium high and very high. Soils are more uniform mere, and even appear so from simple observation but when the imagery is applied and ground truthed, it’s not.”

There’s a big economic issue with high vigor zones because a lot of yield is lost, he explains. “In Tennessee, there was 20% to 25% reduced yield from excess vigor, and I think vigor will be an equal or greater component in Oklahoma and Texas. We need to transfer the technique to a new climatic cropping system — there are lots of commonalities but also significant differences — and work with them. It appears we will get a similar outcome with similar economic responses — but it will be next year before we can talk about it for sure.”

Beyond cotton, there are additional opportunities for Sharp and his young precision class. Canola looks to be a strong possibility as a “precision agriculture crop” because it is a high input-high return crop that responds well to nitrogen optimization and sucking pest control, and vigor zones play a similar part in determining yield. The second opportunity is in developing precision practices for growing switchgrass to be used in bio-ethanol production.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Winter 2005 issue of PrecisionAg Special Reports.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Tim Sharp: Making Precision Agriculture Work In Oklahoma

Professionals Stories
UNL Researchers
ProfessionalsPrecision Agriculture Makes Farming More Sustainable, Profitable
February 23, 2017
Farmers have numerous sources of technology and data available to use in their operations, but many producers struggle with what Read More
DronesLand O’Lakes Drone Challenge Crowdsourcing Competition Underway
February 17, 2017
Land O’Lakes, Inc. is calling on innovators from the tech industry to enter the Land O’Lakes Prize: Drone Challenge, a Read More
ProfessionalsDeere Details New Connect Mobile App, C850 Air Cart
February 15, 2017
To help growers monitor, adjust and learn from the performance of their planter or sprayer while it moves through the Read More
Farmer and computer
ProfessionalsPassionate Precision Agriculture Writers Wanted To Join Our Team
February 10, 2017
About The Opportunity: PrecisionAg.com is looking for people to join our team and submit original content to our website about Read More
Trending Articles
Connected Farm Scout Trimble Agriculture - featured image
Decision Support Software17 Field Scouting Apps For Precision Agriculture
February 6, 2017
There are dozens of easy-to-use mobile apps that are ideal for every day field scouting tasks. From record keeping and Read More
John Deere Dealership
Business ManagementAg Retailer, Equipment Dealer Improve Service By Working Together
January 27, 2017
Some believe that in many aspects of life, timing is everything. Among those believers, please count Randy Bartholomew, Integrated Solutions Read More
Innovation SeriesPrecision To Lead Agriculture In 2017?
January 25, 2017
Another new year is upon us! And I’m certain I speak for many in the agricultural world when I say Read More
Terry Griffin
Business ManagementUsing High Tech To Make Farm Decisions
January 17, 2017
Raj Khosla, professor of precision agriculture at Colorado State University, challenged farmers to think about how far the technology of Read More
PrecisionAg.com featured image
ProfessionalsWelcome to the Newly Enhanced PrecisionAg.com
December 29, 2016
Talk a quick look around our website and we hope you’ll notice it’s significantly different as we head into 2017 Read More
Ryan Raguse and Matthew Grassi
ProfessionalsIndustry Executives Talk New PrecisionAg Professional Brand
December 19, 2016
EFC Systems President and CEO Ernie Chappell Myriad Mobile Cofounder and Chairman Ryan Raguse Read More
Latest News
GuidanceTopcon Launching New X35 In-Cab Display Console
February 27, 2017
Topcon Agriculture introduces the new X35 — the next generation in the X-Family of touchscreen displays with advanced functionality. Designed Read More
Brazilian Agriculture
Ag Tech GlobalInside The Life Of A Precision Ag Consultant In Brazil
February 27, 2017
Editor’s note: Maurício Nicocelli Netto is a Precision Ag Consultant in Brazil. While he has witnessed a lot of growth in Read More
Professor Simon Blackmore
Ag Tech GlobalUK Professor: Name Change Needed For ‘Precision A…
February 24, 2017
‘Accurate farming’ would be more apt than ‘precision agriculture’ to describe this agricultural practice, says professor Simon Blackmore of Harper Read More
EventsInnovation Series 2017 Quick Thoughts: Gaining Ground
February 23, 2017
If you’ve been following past coverage of our PrecisionAg® Media Innovation Series events, this column is going to sound a Read More
UNL Researchers
ProfessionalsPrecision Agriculture Makes Farming More Sustainable, P…
February 23, 2017
Farmers have numerous sources of technology and data available to use in their operations, but many producers struggle with what Read More
Ag Tech GlobalSciFi in Ag: What do North Dakota, Peru, and Mars Have …
February 23, 2017
In early 2016, I was lucky enough to hike the Salkantay Mountain range in Peru. It’s about a 50 mile Read More
Sentera drone
DronesPrecision Ag Professionals Will Find Advice, Applicatio…
February 22, 2017
The upcoming ASCEND Conference & Expo will deliver practical information about using drones to improve processes in precision agriculture. ASCEND Read More
Case IH - AFS AccuStar and UAV Offering - Magnum MX210 AccuStar Receiver
DronesCase IH Adds New GPS Solution, UAV Package To AFS Offer…
February 21, 2017
Driven by the growing demand for efficient data management, the latest Advanced Farming Systems (AFS) solutions from Case IH help Read More
Mobile Phone in field
Systems ManagementBayer Enters Farm Recommendations Arena With Yara Colla…
February 20, 2017
Crop protection and ag biotech giant Bayer and fertilizer producer Yara International ASA have entered into a software collaboration and Read More
Hort TechGrowingProduce.com: Smart Vineyards Set to Revolutioniz…
February 17, 2017
Phil Asmundson is by no means a veteran viticulturist, but a half-dozen years ago, after watching his wife and business Read More
Soil testing
Data ManagementOpinion: Soil Testing Needs Sensors To Get More Accurat…
February 17, 2017
We are entering a very exciting time in agriculture. With so many great software platforms and data collection tools we Read More
Australian Harvest
Decision Support SoftwareGarden City Co-op Added as MZB Regional Mapping Center;…
February 17, 2017
Garden City Co-op (GCC), through a retailer agreement, has been using MZB Technologies as their precision ag platform for a Read More
DronesLand O’Lakes Drone Challenge Crowdsourcing Compet…
February 17, 2017
Land O’Lakes, Inc. is calling on innovators from the tech industry to enter the Land O’Lakes Prize: Drone Challenge, a Read More
DronesDrone Startup Hits VC Jackpot: Skyward Acquired by Veri…
February 16, 2017
Building on its strategy to drive innovation and adoption for IoT services in high-growth markets, Verizon today announced that it Read More
GuidanceCase IH Launches AccuTurn Automated Headland-Turning Te…
February 15, 2017
New AccuTurn automated headland-turning technology from Case IH takes the guesswork out of turning on headlands, which gives you improved Read More
ProfessionalsDeere Details New Connect Mobile App, C850 Air Cart
February 15, 2017
To help growers monitor, adjust and learn from the performance of their planter or sprayer while it moves through the Read More
drones, UAVs, DJI, Aerial Imagery
DronesNDVI Imagery Under $5K? Sentera Outfitting DJI Phantom …
February 15, 2017
Sentera today announced its ability to convert a DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone into a precision scouting tool that collects Read More
Wheat sunrise
Systems ManagementNew Holland Announces New Product Launches
February 15, 2017
New Holland Agriculture expands its product offering with the introduction of three Precision Land Management technologies, PLM Drone Data Management, Read More