Mobile Apps for agriculture
There are several Apps that companies and public institutions have developed with the unique goal of increasing product exposure, reaching broad and progressive audiences, and improving effectiveness in communicating news, educational materials, and support tools. Without doubt, Extension is changing and the audience is evolving. During the winter meetings we’ve had this year, we have seen more and more people using smartphones and tablets for checking email, news, weather, grain price information, and more.
In the last month, the K-State Sorghum and Soybean Schools offered a concurrent session titled “New Technologies: Use of Mobile Apps.” From the audience attending these schools, almost 100 percent said they used Apps on a daily basis, primarily to check on the weather or grain prices .
During the past year, I have been investigating and evaluating the wide variety of available Apps for agricultural purposes. Most of the Apps presented in this article are free to download. Before paying for any App, please check online reviews or consult with any specialist working with that App in order to understand the benefits in using it and how it can assist you in your daily farming operations. As a general rule, an App needs to be “easy to use” and “intuitive.” Most Apps do not come with a user guide or a manual. Take all these points into consideration before downloading and using Apps.
I’ve created a subjective classification with the goal of dividing Apps by their different uses and purposes.
- ID Apps: For identification purposes (weeds, insects, diseases, and nutrients)
- CALC Apps: For calculating purposes (nutrient removal calculations, tank mixes, volume to spray, etc.)
- ECON Apps: For checking grain prices, market evolutions, fertilizer price trends, news and finances
- SCOUT Apps: For scouting purposes or for geo-positioning (soil sampling, recording notes, soil types, etc.)
- GUIDE Apps: For diagnosing crop production issues in the field, primarily related to field guides (crop management: insect, disease, weed, and more)
- GAG Apps: GAG (General Ag-Apps) for general use, weather-related, meetings, magazines, and more
1) ID Apps
The Apps under this category are primarily utilized for identification purposes. This category can be sub-divided into different topics:
1A) Weeds ID
These Apps can help identify a weed, or search for weeds by name, region, or appearance. The ID Weeds (University of Missouri) and/or Weedalert.com are both very good for weed ID purposes.
Figure 1. Top 9 Weeds ID Apps and the ID Weeds App from the University of Missouri.
1B) Insects ID
The Aphid Scout is an App from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that helps visualize aphid infestations at the leaf level (0, 10, 25, 50, and 100%). The Pestbook App from DuPont offers a variety of pictures for different pests and beneficials that can assist in ID purposes.
Figure 2. Top 9 Insects ID Apps, Aphid Scout App from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and DuPont Pestbook App.
1C) Diseases ID
This category highlights Apps specific for diseases either in a single crop, such as the Soy Diseases App (South Dakota State University),or for multiple crops, such as the Crop Diseases App (GRDC, Grains Research & Development Corporation), which presents information for wheat, barley, oat, triticale, and canola, among several other crops. The IPM toolkit (University of Wisconsin) is broader than disease ID alone. It also includes a list of Extension activities such as meetings, publications, videos, and news (highly recommended!).
Figure 3. Top 9 Disease ID Apps and Soy Disease App from South Dakota State University.
1D) Nutrient ID
This section highlights Apps for nutrient deficiency ID purposes. Within this category, the Crop Nutrient Deficiency Photo Gallery App from the International Plant Nutrition Institute is worth downloading for $5. The K Gallery App (International Potash Institute) presents only potassium deficiency pictures for multiple crops.
Figure 4. Top 4 Nutrients ID Apps and Crop Nutrient Deficiency Photo Gallery App from IPNI.
2) CALC Apps
The Apps under this category are primarily utilized as support tools and for calculation purposes. This category is sub-divided into:
A) General Calculators
B) Crop Production
2A) General Calculators
These Apps include a way to calculate the optimum fertilizer N rate, silage moisture cost adjuster, maturity date predictor based on tassel date, grain yield estimator, tank mix calculator, and crop nutrient removal, among others. The TankMix App (Dupont) and the fertilizer removal App (Ag-PhD) can assist farmers in making quick decisions in the field. Still, always make sure to check with your crop consultants, agents, and Extension specialists because this information is variable depending on the soil types, crop yields, and environments. The Manure Valuator (University of Arkansas) is an App that provides assistance in valuing the nutrient content of manure.