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Agriculture Tech Tackles Climate Change, Water Pollution

Integrated ag tech is our next step, and the race is now to the integrators.

by Bob Gore / July 15, 2015

“Technology is going to fix this,” says a farmer from, of all places, Ohio!

No disrespect. I was born in Pittsburgh, which for the geographically challenged among you is as to close to Ohio as Las Vegas is to California.

Anyway … Lake Erie touches both states — Ohio and Pennsylvania — and that’s the point here.

Think back, ag tech devotees, to 2011 and that humongous swath of algae that turned Lake Erie into a lethal liquid that the 500,000 residents of Toledo could not drink.

Lake Erie was our family destination for boyhood vacations. A bucolic place. No longer.

Fertilizer runoff and warm water — water warmed by climate change — definitely can’t mix. Add to this mix the fact that phosphorus is a scarce rare-earth element, and you get a market-making need for ag tech.

Integrated ag tech is truly our next step. As you no doubt have noticed, ag tech is no longer novel and the race is now to the integrators.

Terry McClure, our pioneering Ohio corn farmer in Maumee River Basin, is collaborating with 30 of his colleagues and The (football humor) Ohio State University to create a “prescription” for fertilizing and runoff management on each of his 4,000 acres.

Is this California-relevant? Yes! Keep in mind that our state’s regulators are market-makers and know this:

The Central Valley Water Resources Control Board and large, tech-buying farmers have for the past four years been developing the Irrigated Lands Program, designed to organize fertilizer application best practices, something called water budgeting (you’ll have to find that out on your own or email me), and integrate research.

A couple years ago, back when I worked for the UC Davis chancellor, we released a formative study that identified endemic Central Valley and Central Coast aquifer pollution from … fertilizer.

So, there you have it. California regulations emerging and impetus from researchers.

And the example of Terry McClure and friends stitching together GPS software, drones, spectral photography, irrigation controls, soil sensors and water quality monitors is featured in a recent story in Modern Farmer.

Remember the words of farmer McClure: “We’re just at the beginning of what we can do.”

This column was originally published by TechWire