Youngstown and YSU Implementing Technologies to Go Green

By Tanner Mondok

With Earth Day right around the corner, now is a great time to recognize all that is going on in Youngstown and around the world to protect and sustain the environment while learning more about it.

In the Youngstown area, technologies are being implemented to improve green practices such as farming and gardening.

Barbara Biery, president of the Mahoning County Farm Bureau, said that drones are beginning to be used in agricultural practices.

She said the Federal Aviation Administration regulation requires that any commercial drone usage, even if it’s a farmer’s own operation, has to be operated by a licensed drone pilot who also has special permission. Biery mentioned that drone usage is helpful, however, because it allows farmers to scout fields faster.

To make farming more precise, Biery said that GPS navigation is being used.

“After the mapping and data entry, such as soil test results and previous season yields, the computer will tell the planter or spreader how much or how little fertilizer to apply as well as to not plant through grass waterways or unproductive plots without lifting the machine from the seed bed,” Biery said. “The GPS steers the tractor while the operator watches monitors and equipment, except at end field turns.”

The importance of precision cropping is that it helps improve and maintain water quality. Biery said that technology is another component of the best management practices that farmers use to reduce nutrient loss into wetlands.

“Any nutrient loss can reduce yields and add to already costly production inputs,” she said. “Water quality is a priority for the agricultural part of every community.”

Biery also mentioned that every aspect of agriculture utilizes some kind of modern technology. These technologies include video monitoring of animals, satellite mapping and geological surveys.

The technology used for agricultural practices are being used in the Youngstown area and all around the world. At YSU specifically, there are three wind turbines located on campus.

John Martin, assistant professor of engineering, said the wind turbines’ main purpose for being brought to the university was for research.

Martin said that the data students are collecting from the wind turbines are primarily wind speed compared to power output.

“They want to see how much power the wind turbines produce versus the wind speeds that they’re getting,” he said.

Other than studying the wind turbines, students can also get involved by joining the Youngstown Environmental Sustainability Society.

Felicia Armstrong, advisor of YESS, said that recently, the group has been focusing a lot on gardening.

“They want to be able to find a way to provide fruits and vegetables to the campus community, the rescue mission and things like that throughout the year in a sustainable manner,” she said.

Armstrong said that the students are making sure they aren’t using any harmful products when gardening. The specific kind of fertilizer the group uses is fish waste fertilizer, which Armstrong said is organic.

She also mentioned that the group has had an issue with bugs, so they use a soap to try and get rid of them instead of pesticide because they want to sustain the plants throughout the whole season.

Armstrong said YESS is planning to plant a garden, which will utilize a unique way to collect water.

“We’re working on a rain garden right now. In the spring, we will be replanting a rain garden that is right next to the graduate college,” she said. “The rain garden collects water from the parking lot that’s behind the graduate college and it allows the water to infiltrate back into the groundwater system so it’s not put into the storm water. Those kinds of things will make us more sustainable.”

Solar panels are another form of tech which aid in sustaining the environment. Moser Hall currently has some solar panels located on the building and Armstrong said that they are planning on adding a few more panels on a greenhouse.

“We’re hoping that not this summer, but next summer, the greenhouse goes through some renovations and we’re hoping maybe we can get some solar panels put on there to help power the greenhouse so it will be a green greenhouse,” she said.

With Earth Day coming up, Armstrong said that students should be looking out for a lot of events being held on campus which involve environmental sustainability.