Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What Apps Do You Use on Your Farm?

As mobile technology becomes more accessible to rural areas and more farmers are adopting this technology, mobile applications for agriculture are becoming increasingly popular. We asked some of our farmer friends and collaborators which apps they use on farms. What apps do use on your organic farm or in your work with farmers? Send us an email at joineorganic@gmail.com – we’ll compile and send out the results in our next update.

Several farmers commented about their use of Google Docs and Sheets to record information and for note taking. One farmer reported using a separate email account that workers can email to report activity for issues on the farm. Still popular is taking hand written notes and transfering that information to Excel later. 

Josh Volk of Our Table Cooperative writes about his use of a smartphone, "I use DropBox sometimes to look up some of my planning sheets, but it’s rare. I use the calendar a lot for record keeping noting what I do when and more details in the notes where needed. I use the note pad mostly for short term notes that need to be transferred somewhere else. I occasionally use reminders to create to do lists and remind me of things that need to be done at a specific time. I use the timer on the clock to remind me to turn off water and the stopwatch for time trials in the field."

Some eOrganic member researchers and educators have either been involved in developing apps, or use them in their work with farmers. Examples include the following:

Heather Darby, University of Vermont Extension agronomist and eOrganic's Dairy Team leader, has recently developed a nutrient management app called goCrop™ The app helps dairy farmers develop nutrient management plans used to monitor crop nutrient demands as well as meet state and federal regulations. Learn more at: https://gocrop.com. Heather is currently working on expanding the app to specifically address the needs of organic livestock operations.

One of the most difficult farm tasks is collecting field data. What was planted where? Where was the broccoli with clubroot last year? How weedy is the carrot field?  How long did it take to harvest potato field number two?  What is damaging the lettuce in field 10? Alex Stone of Oregon State University works with some farmers who use Evernote to track and photograph what goes on in the field from soil prep to planting, weeding, pest scouting, and harvest. Using smartphones or tablets, farm personnel document field activities and crop problems and successes in a single note (for example, one for each field or crop) while out in the field.  Farm staff can also share information such as maps, pesticide and fertilizer labels, equipment calibration protocols, and seeding rates. To organize and find information, notes can be organized into notebooks and tagged with keywords. In addition, all of the text in notes is searchable.

APS Plant Health/Tomato MD
The Plant Health app from the American Phytopathological Society (APS) has a Tomato MD component, which is an interactive reference that helps gardeners, professional growers, and consultants identify and manage more than 35 key diseases, insects, and physiological disorders of tomatoes. Tomato experts have peer-reviewed all content to ensure the images and information are accurate, but it is published in an easy-to-use, non-scientific format. After you download the free Plant Health app, the Tomato MD app is available for $1.99. Learn more about the app here. Note: Since some of the control methods in this app may not be compliant with organic regulations, always check with your certifier before applying any inputs and read the eOrganic article Can I Use this Product for Disease Management on My Organic Farm?

NRCS SoilWeb

SoilWeb, which was developed by UC Davis and the NRCS provides GPS based, real-time access to USDA-NRCS soil survey data, formatted for mobile devices. It retrieves graphical summaries of soil types associated with the user's current geographic location. Images are linked to detailed information on the named soils. The app is available for iPhone and Android users, and Google Maps and Google Earth also interface with this application. More NRCS online maps and and apps can be found at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/home/?cid=stelprdb1049255

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