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
Ag Tech GlobalSci-Fi in Ag: The Waging War of Plant-Internet Bots
May 25, 2017
Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Farmers on Tablet Photo Credit All About Food
Professionals6 Keys of Successful Precision Agriculture Tools
May 17, 2017
As precision agriculture professionals we are frequently approached by companies that wish to partner with our organization in order to Read More
Data ManagementClimate Adds Irrigation Data Analytics via HydroBio Acquisition, Will Expand to Europe in 2017
May 9, 2017
Today, The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., announced the acquisition of HydroBio, an agriculture software company based in Read More
SDWG Bret Weisenburger
Decision Support SoftwareMZB Launching New Grid Tool, Updated Mapping Center
May 3, 2017
MZB Technologies has added an additional tool to its precision system. Known for its patented zone-based precision technology, MZB will Read More
Trending Articles
Farming iPad
Data ManagementOpinion: ROI or Die in Precision Agriculture
May 12, 2017
The thought of $3.50 corn for the foreseeable future seems pretty disheartening. However, if you look at the precision ag Read More
BASF Maglis grower retailer tablet
Data ManagementQ&A: What BASF’s Latest Foray into Precision Ag Means For Growers
May 11, 2017
In late April, BASF agreed to acquire U.S. precision ag player ZedX, a leader in the development of agronomic weather, Read More
Mung beans Australia
Ag Tech GlobalPrecision Ag in a Tough Season in Australia
May 8, 2017
This year’s summer crop season has been a tough one for most growers in Australia. Prolonged periods of high temperatures Read More
GPS, Guidance
Business ManagementPromoting Precision Agricultural Innovation in a Risk Averse Marketplace
April 24, 2017
As precision agriculture consultants we constantly are being asked our opinions on where to invest, and how to strategically invest Read More
Data ManagementInnovation Series Highlights: The Weather Company’s Rob Berglund on Cognitive Computing
April 19, 2017
Rob Berglund, global director of sales, energy and agriculture at The Weather Company, discusses IBM’s Watson and applications for advanced analytics that will fundamentally change Read More
Corn close up
Data ManagementFarmers Business Network Releases State of the Industry Style Report
April 17, 2017
Farmer’s Business Network (FBN) released today its “The Voice of the Farmer”, a special research report on the state of Read More
Latest News
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
Data ManagementData as Currency in Ag: We Aren’t There Yet
May 25, 2017
A hot topic in the precision ag revolution is the idea ag data will become a form of currency. Many Read More
Ag Tech GlobalSci-Fi in Ag: The Waging War of Plant-Internet Bots
May 25, 2017
Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Food IT Fork-to-Farm
Hort TechThe Mixing Bowl Event Connects Technology, Food, and Ag…
May 24, 2017
For the fourth consecutive year, The Mixing Bowl presents FOOD IT, under the theme “Fork to Farm.” Action-oriented entrepreneurs, industry Read More
Nematodes in cotton
Ag Tech GlobalUsing Precision Agriculture to Manage Nematodes in Braz…
May 22, 2017
As promised in my first article, this month I am writing about some technical aspects related to the use of Read More
Farmers on Tablet Photo Credit All About Food
Professionals6 Keys of Successful Precision Agriculture Tools
May 17, 2017
As precision agriculture professionals we are frequently approached by companies that wish to partner with our organization in order to Read More
Hagie sprayer
GuidanceWhat’s New and What’s Next from Hagie Manufacturing
May 16, 2017
Many were surprised by John Deere’s announcement last spring that it had acquired majority ownership of Hagie Manufacturing Co., a Read More
Hortau Irrigation Management Software
Ag Tech GlobalHortau Commemorates 15 Years in Ag Tech
May 15, 2017
Today, Hortau celebrates its 15-year anniversary as one of the pioneers in the AgTech space, according to a press release Read More
Kip Tom
Ag Tech GlobalAg Tech: On the Cusp of Something Big?
May 15, 2017
The investment and ag-tech sectors’ continuing courtship of agriculture, smoldering for three or four years now, was well in evidence at Read More
Farming iPad
Data ManagementOpinion: ROI or Die in Precision Agriculture
May 12, 2017
The thought of $3.50 corn for the foreseeable future seems pretty disheartening. However, if you look at the precision ag Read More
Ag Tech Global2017 International Tomato Congress Features Ag Tech Ses…
May 11, 2017
The International Tomato Congress has taken place in Mexico since 2006. In 2017 it will celebrate its twelfth year as Read More
Ag Tech GlobalVenture Capital News: Aerial Imagery Outfit Garners $5 …
May 11, 2017
Ceres Imaging, an aerial spectral imagery and analytics company serving the agricultural sector, today announced it has raised a $5 Read More
BASF Maglis grower retailer tablet
Data ManagementQ&A: What BASF’s Latest Foray into Precision Ag Mea…
May 11, 2017
In late April, BASF agreed to acquire U.S. precision ag player ZedX, a leader in the development of agronomic weather, Read More
DronesSentera Phoenix Drone Nears Coveted 1,000 Acre Coverage…
May 11, 2017
Sentera introduces its Phoenix fixed-wing drone product line, with variants to support the precision agriculture, mapping, and public safety industries, Read More
Data ManagementClimate Adds Irrigation Data Analytics via HydroBio Acq…
May 9, 2017
Today, The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., announced the acquisition of HydroBio, an agriculture software company based in Read More
GuidanceTersus adds RTK-Based AutoSteer System to GNSS Offering…
May 8, 2017
Tersus GNSS Inc., a Chinese GNSS RTK manufacturing company, released its brand new AutoSteer solution recently. The AG960 AutoSteer System Read More
DronesAgEagle takes on the Big Boys with RX48 Fixed Wing Dron…
May 8, 2017
AgEagle Aerial Systems of Neodesha, KS, today announced a fixed wing drone for the use in precision agriculture that far Read More
Mung beans Australia
Ag Tech GlobalPrecision Ag in a Tough Season in Australia
May 8, 2017
This year’s summer crop season has been a tough one for most growers in Australia. Prolonged periods of high temperatures Read More
SDWG Bret Weisenburger
Decision Support SoftwareMZB Launching New Grid Tool, Updated Mapping Center
May 3, 2017
MZB Technologies has added an additional tool to its precision system. Known for its patented zone-based precision technology, MZB will Read More