With the proliferation of smartphones and other electronic gadgets, it seems that there’s an “application” for just about everything you do these days, and that includes planting, growing and maintaining crops.
Experts from universities, Extension and private industry have been working overtime to develop apps to make your life easier.
Navigating the ‘app’ maze
Finding the app you need should be a snap, thanks to a tool developed by Dharmendra Saraswat, assistant professor/ Extension engineer for biological and agricultural engineering at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture in Little Rock.
The tool has three pull-down menus to narrow the search by operating system, cost, or keyword or phrase.
More than 500 apps are listed that are compatible with Android devices, Apple products, Windows 7 and BlackBerry. Saraswat says he developed the tool to save growers time trying to figure out what apps are available and in what format.
The apps he lists are credible sources of information, since nearly all of them contain data reformatted from the university’s own publications.
If someone wants to know how to control a particular weed in Arkansas, for example, that recommendation typically will be provided by weed specialists working for university Extension, he says.
“If they come up with an app, it is likely to be unbiased and more authentic than chemical companies who have interest in promoting only their own product,” Saraswat says.
For information, visit http://baegrisk.ddns.uark.edu.
Fresno, Calif.-based PureSense Environmental Inc. offers an Irrigation Manager app for iPhones, iPads and Android phones that’s available through the iTunes App Store.
The PureSense app allows growers to monitor real-time field conditions through data sent over the Internet every 15 minutes.
Thanks to an “offline sync” feature, you can monitor data even when you’re without a cellular signal, says Fran Garcia, vice president of marketing.
Jim Stollberg, owner of Maverick Farming Co. in Santa Maria, Calif., has the app on his iPad, Android and laptop.
He says he can check his phone to find out when irrigation pumps are running and when water is being applied. He can monitor wind conditions to help determine drift potential when he’s spraying.
Stollberg uses the app mostly for frost control and scheduling irrigation. He says he can see when water was turned on and off and determine application, recharge and draw-down rates.
“It has been a nice benefit for my organization and time management,” Stollberg says.
The main monitoring station costs $3,000. In all, he’s invested $30,000 in equipment—about $50 per acre as an initial investment—and an annual $10 to $15 per acre service charge. The app is free.
The system should pay for itself within a year or two through increased efficiencies and decreased operating expenses, Stollberg says. For information, visit http://puresense.com.
Decision Aid System
If you’re bugged by pests, it’s good to know that information from Washington State University’s IPM Decision Aid System’s website, including its mini-spray guide, has been formatted for the iPhone.
Vince Jones, entomology professor at the university’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee, says the site brings together 10 insect models, four disease models, two horticulture models, weather information and management resources models and synthesizes them all together.
“You can look at the site and get an idea of the pest pressures and what management actions would be appropriate,” he says.
You can receive current and projected pest conditions, find out what pesticides are available to fight the pests and what the pests’ natural enemies are.
The free site is oriented toward the Washington area and is based on the university’s AgWeatherNet network of 130 automated weather stations.
The tool currently is compatible only with iPhones, but that is expected to change by the middle of 2012, if not sooner, Jones says. Additional features also are in the works For information, visit http://das.wsu.edu.
If you find government soil surveys to be a difficult read, you’ll want to check out the SoilWeb app developed by Toby O’Geen, soil resource specialist for the University of California, Davis, Cooperative Extension, and Dylan Beaudette, soil scientist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Cooperative Soil Survey.
The pair didn’t invent soil surveys, O’Geen emphasizes.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service has a good Web interface, he says, but it’s geared to technical users.
“We developed something that is more geared to the non-technical user—someone who is not familiar with soil survey lingo,” he says.
The applications allow users to navigate across the United States, using Google Earth or Google Maps, and explore soil survey information. The apps contain a wealth of information about soil properties and landuse interpretations.
The smartphone app allows users to access this same soil survey information in the field anywhere with cell phone coverage.
David Lewis, director and watershed management adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Marin County, says he often uses the app to confirm what kind of soil series he’s in.
He can instantly determine water-holding capacity and infiltration rates, which are important to help reduce erosion and surface runoff. And Lewis can determine carbon-nitrogen ratios when he’s conducting dynamic carbon and nitrogen studies.
For information, visit http://casoilresource.lawr.ucdavis.edu.
After a successful test program last winter, the Florida Automated Weather Network— FAWN—launched an alert system Dec. 1 that will notify users by text message or e-mail when temperatures become critically low, says director Rick Lusher. Alerts will be available from all 36 FAWN sites statewide.
The network was developed to help strawberry growers conserve water during freezes, but the system can be used with all crops.
Subscriptions cost $50 per season for text message alerts, $20 for e-mail alerts or $60 for both.
Mike Lott, owner of Mike Lott Farms in Seffner, Fla., says he used the FAWN system several times last season as he worked his 40 acres of strawberries in the Plant City area.
“It’s an awesome system,” he says. “I’ve had several on-farm weather systems, but none of them has been as useful as the FAWN system.”
Growers rely on several indicators to determine responses to a freeze, Lott says.
The FAWN system is a “very good added tool” and gives growers an “added sense of security.”
For information, visit http://fawn.ifas.ufl.