Cornfield’s ‘Cool’ Block O Designed to Spur Conversations on Precision Ag Potential

Block O in cornfield

LONDON, Ohio -- A cornfield west of Columbus is showing some Buckeye pride with an unmistakable Block O pattern when viewed from above.

The demonstration plot’s design, depicting the symbol of The Ohio State University, isn’t a crop circle or a corn maze. It was established thanks to new dual-hybrid planting technology that Ohio State researchers are putting under the microscope.

“In general, farmers have always managed their acreage on a per-field basis, depending on their soil characteristics and other production factors,” said John Fulton, precision agriculture specialist for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

“Now, 2015 is the first year technology is commercially available to farmers that allows the planting of two different hybrids in the same field.”

Examples of the technology include the Kinze 4900 series planter and Precision Planting’s vSet Select, Fulton said.

“With this new precision technology, we can match more productive ground with a racehorse, or offensive type of hybrid, which would maximize yields in a year with good weather and the proper management. On other areas of the field, you might want to place a more risk-averse, or defensive, hybrid that would still produce favorable yields even during adverse growing seasons.”

Fulton is helping lead an OSU Extension effort examining the technology for corn and soybeans on hundreds of acres throughout Ohio, both at Ohio State agricultural research stations and through on-farm research with collaborating farmers.

The Block O is located on Field 5, just south of Interstate 70, on Ohio State’s Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, home to the college’s annual Farm Science Review. This year’s Review is Sept. 22-24, and upward of 140,000 attendees are expected.

The hybrids for Field 5 were chosen merely for effect, Fulton said. Most of the corn planted there has a traditional golden-colored tassel. The Block O hybrid has a purple tassel. A Case IH planter fitted with Precision Planting multi-hybrid seed meters was used to seed the field.

“It definitely has a cool factor to it,” Fulton said. “But basically, it’s a good opportunity to demonstrate the capability of new technology and start engaging growers and educating them about aspects they need to consider when adopting new technology. And, from our perspective, we want to understand its functionality and, when requested, help companies improve the technology.”

Fulton said researchers are just beginning to receive feedback about the technology from farmers this year.

“We are at the very early stages to determine where the value exists for the farmer,” Fulton said. “The industry is reporting that this technology could provide a $40 or $50 gain per acre in corn. We don’t have economic data available so we are focused on providing farmers the background and information about the technology before they decide to invest, or if they have already invested, we want to have recommendations for how best to use it.”

Plans are to continue the evaluation effort into next year in order to gain further insight and production data to report back to farmers, Fulton said.

To keep updated on the project, contact Fulton at or watch the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering’s precision agriculture website at

The Farm Science Review is sponsored by the college and features educational workshops, presentations, demonstrations and educational opportunities delivered by experts from OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, the college’s research arm.

Participants can peruse 4,000 product lines from 620 commercial exhibitors and capitalize on educational opportunities offered by specialists from Ohio State and Purdue University.

Advance tickets are $7 at all OSU Extension county offices, many local agribusinesses and online at Tickets are $10 at the gate. Children 5 and younger are admitted free.

Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 22-23 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 24.





CFAES News Team
For more information, contact: 

John Fulton