“Don’t Get So Close to Me!”

How does the number of corn plants per acre affect yield? How can one be sure about the validity of assessment? Thanks to last summer’s Tech in Ag workshop, Kelly Mikhail of Worthington Christian High School was able to teach her Molecular and Cellular Biology Honors students how to assess data and determine its reliability.

Dr. Alex Lindsey of OSU provided 10 corn stalks from each of the experimental variable seed plots sampled at the Tech in Ag Workshop. Mikhail used the corn stalks and the 3D images of ears of corn from the variable seed plots in her lab to introduce:

  • experimental design
  • accurate data collection
  • statistical analysis using the two tailed t- test to determine if crop density increased or decreased the yield per ear of corn and if the increase or decrease in ear yield is related to stalk diameter or height
  • collaboration using a Google Sheets document for data collection on classroom iPads

This lesson was adapted from variable rate seeding information provided at the Tech in Ag workshop.

The students measured average number of corn plants, average corn plant height, average stem diameter, and average number of kernels per corn ear of each plot set (101, 102, 103). They entered the average number per row, height, stem diameter, and kernel per ear onto a google sheet. Next, the students analyzed and compared the relationship between trends in the data (stem diameter and kernels per ear).

Mikhail said her students were engaged and interested in the Ohio farming practices through the years power point presentation. “My students discussed why crops changed over the years and the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). They had no idea what “No Till” farming was and how the use of GMO crops benefits the environment. We focused on the science of GMO and the benefit to the farmer and environment. They were very interested in GMOs because of the media’s portrayal of inherent damage a GMO will have on your body and the environment. We practiced argument based from evidence, reliability of sources, and civil discourse.”

The students were energetic and engaged in collecting data from actual plants harvested from experimental plots. They practiced collecting accurate and precise data and inputting data on the Google docs. Mikhail said, “My students were excited to learn how to use Google sheets and analyze data simply by highlighting and selecting ‘average’. Executing the two tailed t-test was more difficult but worth the effort.” Mikhail said she would use this lab first next year to introduce accurate and precise data collection and engage students in ag biotech issues.