"And if it is wheat streak they are dealing with, it's a moving target," Rush said. "So we have to get to a situation of real-time mapping."

Dr. Steve Evett and Dr. Susan O'Shaughnessy, USDA scientists at Bushland, have been working with remote sensing attached to the irrigation system to create these real-time maps.

But Rush said the system can't determine if the bad patch is due to a biotic stress, such as greenbugs or wheat streak mosaic, or if it is drought-stressed.

"The system may diagnose the disease as water stress and indicate it needs more water, when it doesn't," he said. "We are going to help increase the precision of that remote sensing to allow them to differentiate a biotic stress from a droughty area."

Rush said his ultimate goal is to get a larger long-term grant from the federal Agriculture and Food Research Initiative program that will allow all the pieces of the research puzzle to be brought together. These grants are highly competitive and to be successful, they require multidisciplinary approaches that study entire agricultural systems.

"We want to present an entire management system to farmers, with remote sensing, variable-rate nozzles, drought-tolerant and disease-resistant varieties of mainly corn and wheat, and specific agronomic practices," he said. "So the AFRI program is perfect for what we want to accomplish.

"We've been conducting pieces of research or laying a lot of bricks in the past for a foundation that we now can put together into one big system and bring it all together for the producers," Rush said.