College football season opens Saturday, and one Western Kansas farmer has found a creative way to express his team spirit using precision ag technology.
Rocky Ormiston, co-owner of Ormiston Farms, used the technology to plant corn in the shape of the K-State Powercat on the family farm near Kismet. At 2,000 feet wide, it is thought to be the largest depiction ever made of the popular logo.
Aerial photos taken several hundred feet above the field show a perfectly groomed Powercat inside a 125-acre circle that measures one-half mile wide. The Powercat covers about 40 acres of that circle, Ormiston said.
Today's precision agriculture allows farmers to plant multiple varieties of farm crops in one pass, depending on soil type or other factors. In the case of Ormiston's Powercat, he used the technology to plant one corn variety in a very precise pattern, and then used a different variety for all other parts of the circle.
The two varieties have different colored tassels, creating a color difference between the larger field and the Powercat, which is measured right down to the inch, Ormiston said. The image, which represents the university's Wildcat mascot, was expected to last for about two weeks.
Using computer software from CropQuest, an agricultural consulting company, Ormiston (a 2006 K-State grad in agricultural economics) and his wife Stephanie (a 2006 K-State grad in marketing) dropped an image of the Powercat onto a picture of the field to assign zones for planting corn.
The computer program communicates with the tractor, which serves as a controller for the 80-foot-wide planter. As the farmer drives through the field, the computer program communicates with a pair of meters on the planter, which releases the assigned variety at the precise time and location.
The Ormiston Farm, which includes 7,000 acres of irrigated land, purchased the technology nearly two years ago to improve the productivity of its highly variable soils. It allows for customization of seed to maximize every soil type within a field, Ormiston said.
The field where the Powercat was planted was an area where the soil was consistent, giving him the opportunity to "just have some fun."
"We've been talking about doing this since we bought the planter," he said. "I didn't want to do it the first year, because I wanted to make sure everything was going to work first."
Ormiston manages the farm with his father, Rock, who also graduated from K-State in 1978 with a degree in agricultural economics. Their farm is located about 17 miles northeast of Liberal, Kan.