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GPS units could track soybean rust's every move

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Written Tuesday, February 15, 2005  

Precision agriculture, which can aid growers in tracking the development and progression of crop insects and diseases, may also prove to be an effective tool when it comes to soybean rust.

The technology, specifically in the form of hand-held Global Positioning System (GPS) units, will highlight the Ohio Agricultural Technologies Association (OATA) program. The program takes place during the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference, Feb. 24-25 at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio.

The OATA program, which runs from 1:15-5:35 p.m. on Feb. 24, will delve into precision agriculture resources and their effective uses.

"Hand-held GPS units are used in the field to scout for diseases like head scab and insects like the soybean aphid," said Harold Watters, an Ohio State University Extension educator for Miami County who helped coordinate the program lineup. "This same technology can effectively be used to scout for and map fields infected with soybean rust."

The hand-held units operate by using GPS satellites to plot locations in a field, right down to the geographical coordinates. The data is then transferred to a central computer system, where a host of information can be created -- from statistics of incidences to maps of fields throughout entire counties.

Using precision agriculture is just one way Ohio State researchers are helping growers prepare for the possible arrival of soybean rust. Researchers also have established sentinel plots in key areas throughout Ohio that may be the first to see soybean rust, such as in Butler and Clermont counties -- two of the southernmost counties in Ohio -- and in Miami County, where growers are some of the first to plant their soybean crops.

Other topics of discussion during the OATA program include:

* Reasons and benefits for using International Organization for Standardization standards, and documentation on the farm as it relates to quality assurance.

* How yield monitors can be used to measure conservation practices.

* Digitizing soil surveys -- a new resource that turns paper soil surveys into computerized tools for a variety of agricultural and environmental purposes, such as estimating yields, measuring pH levels, improving drainage, and identifying suitable sites for homes.

OATA, formed in 2002, brings together producers, consultants, agri-businesses, agri-retailers, dealers, state and federal agencies, educators and researchers to collaborate on a variety of technologies, including precision agriculture, remote sensing, software, the Internet, e-businesses, GPS and GIS systems, and biotechnology.

The Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference is sponsored by Ohio State University Extension, Northwest Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Districts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA Farm Service Agency and the Ohio No-Till Council.

For more information, call the Allen County Soil and Water Conservation Districts at (419) 223-0040 or the Ohio State Extension Hancock County office at (419) 422-3851. For more information on OATA log onto http://agnr.osu.edu/oata .

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