Friday, October 31, 2014
   
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Controlling Mother Nature

Monsanto rain-out shelter will have world-class automation.

Rising above a sea of corn stalks south of Gothenburg is a one-of-a-kind structure.

Chan Mazour, manager of the Gothenburg Water Utilization Learning Center, likened the rain-out shelter under construction to a greenhouse without the glass.

Once completed next spring, sensors in the 80 x 160-foot shelter can detect rain and move the structure over plots to create a controlled environment.

“It’s designed so we can monitor the exact amount of moisture the plants receive so we can design drought-tolerant products and systems to help farmers manage drought,” Mazour said.

Constructed on rails that move the shelter on and off corn, Mazour said the high level of automation is a first for Monsanto.

“It’s also a higher level of automation than anything else out there today,” he explained.

The shelter was designed within Monsanto, based on similar structures in use around the world.

“It’s especially focused on drought,” Mazour noted.

TL Sund Constructors Inc. of Lexington is erecting the steel building from Behlen Mfg. Co of Columbus.

Footings were poured two months ago and construction of the building started last Thursday.

Although erection is expected to be finished in three weeks, automation will take much longer to install, Mazour said.

For example, specialized equipment can detect when rain is imminent.

“And roll over plots in two minutes,” he said.

Corn is planted in 36 different test areas where trenches have been dug and lined to create barriers to prevent moisture contamination from one plot to another.

Flow meters will be installed to measure soil moisture.

“For us, it’s all about developing products to increase yields and profitability in years of drought and being more efficient with water use,” Mazour said.

Learning center officials hope to start using the shelter next spring.

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