Students in the University of Georgia Tifton Campus’ “Principles of Precision Agriculture” class are learning GPS technology. In doing so, the students helped to map out two south Georgia corn mazes.
“The corn maze is an opportunity to have a little fun while applying some of the things we’ve learned in class,” said George Vellidis, class instructor and agriculture engineer on the UGA Tifton Campus. “The class involves learning how to use research-grade GPS and precision farming mapping software.”
Students used the software to establish the maze and GPS to assist in mowing two corn mazes during the class. One maze is at the Center of Agricultural Study and Excellence farm at Irwin County High School in Ocilla, Georgia, and the other is at Rutland Farms in Tifton, Georgia.
Both of the farms sent maze designs that were drawn on paper to Vellidis, along with information about the field in which they wanted their mazes to be constructed. Students input the design into the mapping software to assign coordinates.
“’Rubber sheeting’ is a term we use,” Vellidis said. “We take a design that doesn’t have any GPS coordinates associated with it, and we wrap it onto the shape of the field. We use our GPS receivers to trace the lines in order to cut the paths into the corn that make up the shape.”
After the design was assigned GPS coordinates, the students followed the map through the field with a mower behind them, cutting the path for the corn maze. William Hinson, a junior agriscience and environmental systems major, said he learned how powerful and accurate GPS by making the mazes.
“In the field, it seems like the GPS isn’t working and you’re going all over the place, but actually, the GPS works almost flawlessly,” Hinson said. “I enjoyed seeing the final product and that the work we did actually looked good.”
Rutland Farms’ maze design for this year commemorates the 100th year of the farm’s existence. Last year’s maze was a tribute to former UGA head football coach Mark Richt’s 15th season with the team and was featured on ESPN.
Vellidis said that making corn mazes is a great way to help students learn how GPS technology is an integral part of agricultural practices worldwide.
“It’s hard to imagine agriculture without GPS technology, at least in the developed world,” Vellidis said. “We use it for pretty much everything these days, including guiding farm vehicles that are autosteered and knowing where to apply more or less fertilizer. GPS is a principle of precision agriculture.”
Hinson said he thinks precision agriculture is important to learn because it is so widely used.
“Precision agriculture is important because efficiency is key in farming,” Hinson said. “Precision agriculture brings a level of efficiency that has never been achieved before.”
(Kyle Dawson is an intern on the UGA Tifton Campus.)