Dr. Wesley Porter an Associate Professor and Extension Specialist covering Precision Agriculture and Irrigation at the University of Georgia (UGA). He is originally from upstate Pickens County, South Carolina. He attended Clemson University from 2004 to 2010 where he earned his bachelor's degree in Agricultural Mechanization and Business and his master's degree in Agricultural Engineering.
Porter began his involvement with precision agriculture during his master's research in the coastal plains of South Carolina. He then had the opportunity to attend Oklahoma State University for his Ph.D. from 2010 to 2013. While here, he also worked full-time as an Extension Engineer. Upon graduation, he accepted his current position with UGA.
Porter is housed in the very diverse Crop and Soil Sciences Department. Being an Ag Engineer in this department makes his position very unique. His specific expertise is in precision ag, a field that he has been working in since his undergrad. The projects that he has worked on have been centered around variable rate application work, yield monitors, harvesting, remote sensing, and many more. During his Ph.D. work, he dove deeper into machinery systems and operations. This is the application of machines in our agricultural operations, not necessarily the design and creation. This includes planter and combine settings, sprayer calibration, etc. In addition, from his master's work, he has great knowledge of irrigation work that he has brought with him to UGA. While here he has continued to do irrigation scheduling, soil moisture sensor work, and working with scheduling tools to educate producers on how to maximize yield and Irrigation Water Use Efficiency.
The project that has made the most impact has been looking at planter control systems. This research started about five years ago when they evaluated the effects of planter settings (depth, downforce, seeding rate, etc.) on crop emergence growth and yield. From this research, they have created data sets regarding how incorrectly set planters will hinder emergence and yield at the end of the season and how to maximize settings for a particular soil and environmental conditions (soil texture, soil moisture, etc.). Even now, this work is still getting attraction and interest. The work is continuous in that the new technologies and advancements are always being added.
From the industry and grower perspective, these results will allow for better seed placement. If they can establish an acceptable stand at the beginning of the season, they can avoid replanting.
An irrigation project that Porter works on yearly is a data set from trials on irrigation scheduling for row crops (corn, cotton, and peanuts). They will evaluate the various commercially available irrigation scheduling methods for row crops and evaluate those in season for irrigation timing, irrigation amount, growth, and yields. These data sets allow producers to make decisions on what scheduling tool they should use. The results of this project will better target the water requirements for crops in season.
Through the use of extension agent training, they see the process of bringing this new information to growers going over efficiently. With both of these projects, the data sets make the information simplified and accessible for growers.
Most of the funding for these projects comes from the Georgia Cotton Commission, Georgia Peanut Commission, and Georgia Corn Commission.
Written by: Caraline Coombs