"Betting the Farm"

Written by Paul Sutter on Monday, 13 February 2017. Posted in From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

I'm no stranger to farms. I grew up surrounded by them, my undergrad university in California had a big agriculture program (and a dairy with some delicious cheeses, but I digress), and my graduate school in Illinois was notable for an experimental corn field right in the middle of campus.

But when a correspondent for Farm World magazine reached out to me for an interview, I was surprised. One, that there is a Farm World magazine and it's apparently a big deal; and two, that they wanted to talk to an astrophysicist. About sunspots.

Over the course of the interview I learned a lot, and what struck me the most was how sophisticated the industry is. GPS, drones, specialized weather simulations, complex market forecasting, cutting-edge research in biotechnology, the works. I suppose if 2% of the US is feeding the remaining 98% (and then some), they've got to be pretty smart about it.

And farmers - as an industry - think about sunspots. There's a notion that sunspot activity is connected to weather. While the sun's brightness does change, and does so in a measurable way, it doesn't substantially affect our weather. But increased sunspot activity is tied to higher rates of solar storms, which do seriously impact both weather and GPS satellites. And that's definitely something for a farmer to worry about.

About the Author

Paul Sutter

Paul Sutter

Paul Sutter is COSI's Chief Scientist. He is an astrophysicist and offers a wealth of knowledge about our universe. In addition to his COSI position, Paul Sutter is a Cosmological Researcher and Community Outreach Coordinator at The Ohio State University's Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics (CCAPP).