Student Spotlight: Ashley Ritchie

Aug. 4, 2016

Ashley Ritchie is a senior Sustainable Plant Systems major, specializing in Agronomy. Ashley doesn’t come from a farming background, so her path to majoring in an agricultural field began in high school. As a high school student, Ashley participated in Envirothon, working with soil. Ever since then, her interest in agriculture, particularly in agronomy, grew. She chose to begin her higher education career at Ohio State’s Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) and enjoyed the experience, “It was great. You got to know the faculty really well,” says Ashley.

After two successful years at ATI, Ashley made the move to main campus in Columbus, saying, “The transition was easy, but you still have to work hard to do well.”

Main campus offered Ashley opportunities to continue to grow as an individual. Ashley was offered an internship with Dr. Alexander Lindsey of the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science. As part of her internship, Ashley works in Dr. Lindsey’s lab and out in the field on a variety of tasks, working with plant and soil samples, SPAD readings, and basic lab work. Her main focus is on corn and soybeans. Ashley’s years of hard work paid off and she was awarded the Will C. Hauk Memorial Scholarship from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences in 2016 for her research project.

Ashley plans on graduating with a Bachelors of Science in Agriculture in Spring 2017. She’s planning on applying to graduate school to pursue a Masters degree. She plans to become an agronomist. Looking back on her experience at Ohio State, Ashley enjoyed the Agronomy Field Day and making connections with people in the agriculture industry. Her advice to students who may be interested in agriculture is simple, “Agriculture is the future and it takes a lot of hard work. It’s not easy, but if you’re interested in it, try it.”


For a sample of Ashley’s research project, see below:


Farmers are trying to increase plant density to maximize yield per acre. One method to increase the number of plants per acre is to switch from 30” row production practices to narrow row production (<22” row spacing). However, narrow row spacings may increase the disease pressure by increasing both the host and inoculum (pathogen), and decreasing the air movement within the canopy which could cause an environment suitable for infection. The plants being planted in narrow rows may experience more competition with their neighbors for nitrogen compared to plants in 30” rows. There is limited research with the input of nitrogen and fungicide application between narrow rows and wide rows, which has led to the question “does 15” and 30” row spacing in corn influence nitrogen uptake and the need for a fungicide application?”

To address the question, a field experiment will be conducted in the summer of 2016. The experiment will be arranged as a split-plot randomized complete block design. The experiment will be conducted at the Western Branch OARDC in South Charleston, Ohio and the Northwest Branch OARDC in Custar, Ohio. The whole-plot treatments are going to be 15” to 30” row spacing with four replications. Within each whole plot, the sub-plot factor will be a combination of hybrid (2 different Pioneer brand hybrids) and spray treatment. Each hybrid in each row spacing will be sprayed with a DuPont fungicide, a foliar nitrogen product, a combination of both products, or no foliar application. The nitrogen content in the ear-leaf tissue of one corn hybrid will be measured from each row spacing before and 14 days after foliar nitrogen application. Other measurements include the stand, height, SPAD at VT and 14 days after application, and foliar disease progression. This is an important experiment because there is not enough research on narrow row response to nitrogen input and fungicide. These results will be used to inform the farmer about nitrogen management as well as how disease management may need to be changed based on their row spacing.