Students tackle ag’s soil erosion problem

It won’t be long until farmers across Ohio will be out in force planting corn and soybeans. As these men and women prepared for the planting season, Columbus-area 6th and 7th graders and Ohio State University students and professors tackled one of agriculture’s top issues: soil erosion.

Last week, several students from Central Ohio began testing soil samples to determine the overall soil health as part of the 2017 4-H Ag Innovators Experience (AIE). They used tiny robots to design, build and test no-till planting systems designed to reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint.

The program, developed by Ohio State University and sponsored by Monsanto Company, focuses on engaging youth to learn about soil health, sustainable environmental practices and the need to be good stewards of the land. The challenge is expected to reach 5,000 youth across five states, including Ohio, Missouri, Nebraska, Illinois and Michigan.

Andrew Armstrong, who, along with his family, farms 4,000 acres of corn and soybeans in Clark County, was part of the recent event held at the Ohio 4-H Center in Columbus.

“I wanted to give these students an idea of some of the practical applications that we use on our farm for no-till,” Armstrong said. “I showed them what our planters look like and talked about how we go about managing our fields. We also went over exactly why we practice no-till, giving examples of runoff and soil erosion and even its advantages from an economical standpoint.”

The students were given the task to design a no-till planter for the future that would better serve a farmers needs, as well as the ecosystems needs.

“It was kind of interesting to see the students thinking about weight distribution and thinking about ways to fix where the planter might have had some issues getting across the field,” Armstrong said. “Their conclusions were that the no-till soils were a lot healthier of a soil than where the soil was conventionally tilled.”

Armstrong said being a part of this learning session was important to him because students of this age group are beginning to understand what is going on in the world and with the task their generation faces of feeding more people with fewer acres, he hopes some of them will find a passion in some realm of agriculture to help in that effort.

The 4-H AIE seeks to help youth develop workforce skills and drive innovation using science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In three years, the program has already engaged nearly 25,000 youth and succeeded in making STEM concepts relevant and fun with activities across select states in the Midwest.

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