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Ohio State Researchers Improving Farm Field Drainage, Crop Yields

Ohio is often beset by bouts of wet, chilly spring weather around the start of the growing season, leaving too much water in the field, which can delay getting soybeans and corn planted on time to ensure good yields in the fall.

Unseasonably cold spring weather during germination impacts plant growth. Researchers with Ohio State’s AgTech Innovation Hub are looking into ways to protect seeds in a project underway in Findlay.

The Ohio State College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences research project is funded by Nationwide, with the goal of developing applied agricultural technology by integrating academic disciplines, in a collaboration with faculty and students.

Vinayak Shedekar, an assistant professor in agricultural water management, is also the director of the Overholt Drainage Education and Research Program and the International Program for Water Management in Agriculture. He is engaged in technolgy that improves agricultural drainage, such as removing excess water in a soggy spring from plant root zones to spur growth.

The study, Shedekar said, is focused on creating “favorable field conditions for farm equipment in the spring and fall.” He noted that “Modern-day drainage now involves installing perforated plastic tubing with self-propelled drainage plows and advanced GPS grade control technology,” which replaced the early use of fired clay drainpipes (tiles) in trenches dug by hand, followed by concrete drain tiles excavated by trenching machines in the mid 20th century.

Ohio State agronomist Alex Lindsey, an assistant professor in crop ecophysiology, monitors aspects of climate change on crop yields. “Soybeans are the number one crop planted in Ohio on just over 5 million acres each year. Planting dates have historically been mid to late April into May, but warmer springs have allowed for planting earlier in parts of the state (April 5 or 10),” Lindsey said in an email.

He explained that producing quality crops with high yields is essential to produce income during the season, and helps farmers provide “quality feed to livestock producers.” Lindsey added, “Soybean oil from seeds is used for cooking as well as the production of things like biodiesel and soy-based waxes and foams.”