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UGA Extension precision agriculture expert Wes Porter honored

By for CAES News

A University of Georgia scientist’s dedication to educating Georgia farmers about the benefits of precision agriculture has garnered him international recognition.

Wes Porter, a UGA Cooperative Extension precision agriculture and irrigation specialist, will receive the Educator/Researcher Award from the PrecisionAg Institute at the InfoAg Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, on Tuesday, July 23.

The PrecisionAg Institute is an advocacy and research organization dedicated to improving the understanding and adoption of technology in agriculture. That has been Porter’s mission ever since he arrived on the UGA Tifton campus in January 2014.

Precision agriculture, specifically irrigation management and machinery systems, is the main focus of Porter’s Extension work. Since more water regulations have been implemented to help farmers conserve one of Georgia’s most valuable natural resources, producers can enhance their operations through the use of precision agriculture.

Porter has researched strategies like soil moisture sensors, online scheduling tools and smartphone applications to offer producers multiple options to cut costs and help their farming operations remain sustainable. Porter has also worked with planter settings, data management, yield monitors, and other precision ag tools to help farmers become more effective and efficient.

“Applying technology to agriculture helps us do a better job managing our inputs, all the way from prepping our land until we harvest the crops,” said Porter, who has worked in precision agriculture since his undergraduate studies at Clemson University.

Precision agriculture practices include variable rate irrigation, a technique that adjusts the amount of irrigation water being applied on a farmer’s crops; and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which allow farmers or researchers to take overhead photos of their crops to make decisions on when to irrigate or apply fertilizer.

“(Precision agriculture) can be anything from GPS to robotics to UAVs to machine-controlled systems. There are a lot of different technologies that fit under the umbrella that is precision agriculture,” he said.

Although Georgia farmers have adopted certain levels of precision agriculture, Porter says the university needs to continue educating farmers on their importance and impact.

After the awards are presented on July 23, recipients will be asked to participate in a panel discussion on trends in precision agriculture.

“Wesley’s resume in both education and research demonstrates a deep commitment to helping producers and agronomists understand and adopt best practices,” said Paul Schrimpf, manager of the PrecisionAg Awards of Excellence program for the PrecisionAg Institute. “His activity and leadership in many prominent ag organizations and willingness to share his knowledge with universities across the country is also impressive and among the key reasons he was selected by our judges to receive the 2019 Educator/Researcher Award.”

Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.
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