14:46 PM

Ohio State agricultural and environmental research highlighted with cabinet secretary visit

Vilsack announces $1.2 million to support a robotic irrigation system

U.S. Department of Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown used a visit to The Ohio State University’s Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory Friday to highlight the critical role of agriculture in the nation’s economy and the administration’s investment in agricultural research and extension.

Vilsack and Brown toured Waterman and participated in a discussion with university faculty and staff and industry stakeholders that was moderated by Vice President for Agricultural Administration and Dean of the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Cathann A. Kress.

“Agriculture is our state’s No. 1 industry,” said Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson, describing how agricultural and environmental research drives innovation during the discussion. “To borrow a phrase from Dean Kress, it’s a ‘cornerstone’ of our economy. It’s also a cornerstone of our university.”

Johnson highlighted the work of Distinguished University Professor Rattan Lal, a soil scientist who is an expert in carbon management and sequestration. Johnson and Lal will co-teach a course in spring semester focusing on pathways to reduce carbon emissions.

Ohio State is also the lead university partner for research on low-Earth orbit satellites, Johnson said. CFAES will host and operate a ground-based “control lab” for agricultural research aboard a space-based science lab and assist in advancing in-space and terrestrial agriculture.

Kress pointed to the current construction of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Research Complex and the plans for a new multispecies animal learning center as part of the continuing innovation at Waterman. Robotic-enhanced farming and artificial intelligence research were also highlighted.

“[Robotics are] another important addition to what we can do here at the Ohio State University to provide a world-class education for our students and a world-class research environment for our faculty,” Kress said.

As part of his visit, Vilsack announced a $1.2 million investment by the USDA to support a robotic irrigation system that aligns nutrient application timing to a crop’s nutrient needs and improves irrigation efficiency. The project will be implemented in Ohio and Iowa.

Vilsack said the research and education at Waterman and Ohio State is critical to the nation’s agricultural and environmental future, noting the importance of young people’s engagement in supporting local and regional food systems and commodity-scale agriculture with an eye toward reducing the carbon footprint of American agriculture.

“And to be able to do it in a way that increases the bottom line for our farmers, ranchers and producers, and increases their ability to keep the farm and transfer it to the next generation, is just an exciting opportunity,” Vilsack said.

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