ROS Rides The Rails To Stop The Rain

Nebraska Notebook

Mobile building helps protect corn research plots in Nebraska.

Published on: May 24, 2013

For those of us in the farm magazine business, the technology tools available today to farmers and the industry are fun to cover and, I admit, a bit overwhelming to explain at times.

When I interview leading-edge Nebraska farmers at planting or harvest time, or during irrigation season, I find myself asking this question quite more and more when it comes to precision farming components—could you repeat that again?

Monitors fill tractor cabs and combines, displaying instant information about such things as planting population rates and speed, bushels harvested, fertilizer application accuracy and much more. And you can take the time watch those monitors carefully because auto-guidance systems do the job of precisely maneuvering you down the field.

ROS Rides The Rails To Stop The Rain
ROS Rides The Rails To Stop The Rain

I remember the days of checking behind the planter for skips and other errors. That's what farmers did a lot more of 10 years ago or longer. You just weren't quite sure the seed was dropped or dropped where it was supposed to be.

But the most interesting and novel technology tool I've seen so far this summer is part of the he corn research plots at the Monsanto Water Learning Center is Gothenburg. The center in 2013 began its fifth year of corn systems research, comparing corn hybrids, their water use, nitrogen impact and other factors. One set of plots begun last year tests DroughtGard genetics, under varying drought conditions and farming systems.

Chandler Mazour, manager of the center, took me out to see ROS. ROS, you see, doesn't like rain to fall on comparison plots on which are grown Monsanto's DroughtGard hybrids. So ROS stops that rain.

ROS stands for "The Rain Shelter," a 60 by 180 foot Behlen steel building that's mounted on two long rails. It appears from the road to be a typical farm shop, although it stands by itself away from other outbuildings.

When ROS is signaled that it's about to rain, it beeps like a semi-truck in reverse and takes off down the rails, eagerly "rushing" to protect the corn plots.

I've seen a lot of farm structures before, but never one the size of ROS that moves before your very eyes. Three minutes is all it takes for ROS to cover the 000-foot-distance over the plots.

The center's researchers control the amount and timing of water, through subsurface drip irrigation systems under each plot, to get the most accurate results without worrying about Mother Nature "interfering" with their work.

As its name implies, the Water Learning Center performs an educational function in addition to the on-going research its scientists conduct. Meetings for farmers and those in the seed and irrigation industries occur there year-round. The center also hosts ag and non-ag groups for summer tours. In 2012, more than 4,000 visitors came to the Gothenburg site.

ROS is a tour favorite, according to Mazour, and the mobile building never disappoints.

ROS is built by Behlen, but Monsanto engineers designed the rail and control systems.