OSU Technology Expands Borlaug's Green RevolutionTue, 25 Feb 2014 17:05:35 CST
Next to water, the most yield limiting factor in many agricultural areas worldwide is nitrogen. With each passing year, nitrogen grows more costly and the effects of applying to much can also result in environmental pollution.
In the early 1990s, agricultural engineers and plant and soil scientists at Oklahoma State University began seeking a way to measure plant vigor in an effort to accurately calculate the optimum amount of nitrogen to apply to various crops. More than a decade of work by dozens of professors and graduate students finally resulted in the Greenseeker, a handheld unit that does just what its inventors hoped.
Advances in sensor technology have reduced costs, making them affordable to practically every farmer in America. They are now marketed by Trimble.
Norman Borlaug, the Nobel laureate and wheat breeder credited with the Green Revolution, was an outspoken advocate of applying technological solutions to help feed the world. Borlaug's granddauther, Julie Borlaug, said he had made many friends at OSU, including one of the inventors of the Greenseeker, Bill Raun. Over the years, Norman Borlaug remained keenly interested in the progress of the technology up until his death in 2006.
"Bill came, in think, on the last day of my grandfather's life to tell him," Julie Borlaugh said. "He brought a model and said, 'Here's where we are. We're out there. We're going to have it in the hands of the farmers.' And my grandfather's last words were, 'Take it to the farmer.'
"And that was about the Greenseeker. But even more it was about technology and I think the Greenseeker shows how we can take low tech and high tech to benefit farmers not only in the U.S., but small hold farmers who can't afford this type of technology. Therefore they lessen the amount of money they are spending on inputs and it's environmentally beneficial."
Borlaug said that even though farmers in smaller countries may not yet be able to individually afford something like a Greenseeker, cooperatives could own several which would be available to their members.
"I think things like that are important and I'm glad to see that our U.S. land grants like Oklahoma State are taking that technology to the benefit of all."
Radio Oklahoma Network's Ron Hays spoke with Julie Borlaug about her grandfather's interest in the Greenseeker. You can listen to the conversation by clicking on the LISTEN BAR below.
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