There is a mobile media revolution going on in this country and farmers and growers are part of it. In the last three years, desktop computer usage as a share of digital media use fell by 16 percent, while mobile usage increased by the same amount.
People are freeing themselves from the desktop computers that kept them in their offices in the back of the barn. They are exchanging them for smartphones and, to a lesser extent, tablets, according to the 2016 annual report on U.S. mobile app usage released by comScore, a Reston, Virginia, media brand and consumer behavior measurement company.
Mobile phones are the new desktop computers. The apps they can now run are sophisticated enough that you can catch some rays on a Hawaiian beach while scheduling the irrigation on your farm in California’s Central Valley – even start or stop it on the fly – in less time than it takes the cabana staff to get back to you with your umbrella drink.
It wasn’t the cellphone that drove this shift. Apps – programs designed to run on smartphones and tablets – were responsible for 80 percent of the move toward mobile. More often than not, we are not calling people on our smartphones; 85 percent of the time, we’re using apps.
By December 2016, smartphone apps surpassed the desktop web browser, becoming the primary means of accessing the web, accounting for half of all digital media time and seven out of eight minutes we spend on mobile devices.
ComScore reported smartphone app usage across all U.S. age groups averages nearly three hours daily. That includes farmers and growers, too.
According to the 2012 U.S. Census, the average age of U.S. farmers is 58. Coincidentally, comScore reported adults aged 55 to 64 showed the largest annual increase in app usage – 37 percent – from almost 1.5 hours per day to nearly two hours per day.
These numbers motivated us to compile a list of some of our favorite apps… ones we thought you might find useful. Apps listed here can be found using the search functions of either Apple’s App Store or the Google Store in its apps section.
This list is far from exhaustive. If you are looking for a crop- or enterprise-specific app, odds are good you can find one in any of the major app stores. If we did not hit your favorite app, let us know. And, if you can’t find an app for the job you need done, grab a 15-year-old, describe what you want, and have them develop it with you. They’ll earn some money towards ag college and you might just make enough coin to buy that new tractor you’ve been eyeing.
Users can determine the proper sequence for adding crop protection materials to spray tanks with Mix Tank. According to its developer, Precision Laboratories of Waukegan, Illinois, proper mix sequences prevent product incompatibilities from adding to application times and causing product loss and longer sprayer cleanouts.
The app, which is available for both Android and iPhone users, captures product-use rates and application information in mix sheets, which can be used to create sprayer logs. It also integrates a weather feature, which also aids in compliance record production.
Crop Data Management Systems of Marysville, California, sells what many say is the industry standard for crop chemical label databases. CDMS claims to have 200 manufacturers listing 4,400 crop protection products labeled for use against 4,900 pest and diseases in more than 1,600 crops covering all 50 states — all easily accessed.
Android and iPhone users can create customized profiles based on their operation’s needs, which will deliver a myriad of services, label change notices for products they use. Pricing is based on usage and amount of access.
Anyone who has ever hosted a livestock judging contest knows one of the more difficult tasks is calculating class cuts for contestant scores. The app streamlines the process into a threepart task. It opens to a page with the official placing in the top box and the cuts listed in three boxes immediately below. There are two columns of all possible contestant placings paired with scores based on the cuts and placings above.
Irrigation Scheduler Mobile
Western fruit and vegetable growers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Arizona, Montana, Utah, Colorado, North Dakota, and South Dakota can use a nifty, free irrigation scheduling app on either iPhones or Androids. Developed by Li Tan, assistant professor of computer science at Washington State University, Tri-Cities, the app requires users to acquire a free registration on the WSU AgWeatherNet web site.
Once registered, growers may log into the app and set up field descriptions. During this process, growers specify the location of the nearest weather station within one of 10 western U.S. agricultural weather networks listed within the app.
The app automatically draws daily crop water use estimates from designated stations and uses them to compute daily soil water deficits.
Based on this data, the app provides answers to two critical questions: “When should I turn on my irrigation?” and “How long should I keep it running?”
Skilled app users will be able to use a number of the app’s tweaks and tools to get more accurate answers.
For growers looking for more automated solutions, most irrigation manufacturers now produce proprietary scheduling apps to run on smartphones and tablets. Many of them also feature remote control features to not only schedule irrigation, but to turn individual field or entire systems on and off.
The killer integrated pest management (IPM) suite of apps is the MYIPM series for use on iPhones and Androids.
Project leader Guido Schnabel, a professor of plant pathology at Clemson University, assembled a team of horticultural scientists hailing from Cornell University, Penn State, University of Massachusetts, North Carolina State and University of Georgia to provide content for the apps. Schnabel’s teams created a three-app package going soup-to-nuts on identification of Northeastern and Southeastern U.S. fruit pests and diseases as well as ways to control them.
Each app opens to a pictorial gallery of various diseases and pests coupled with an overview of what growers are facing with each outbreak. Some of these also feature audio tracks discussing the pest or disease by regional specialists.
The app provides a comprehensive list of both conventional and organic chemical solutions along with a rating system of each product’s effectiveness. Each list is sortable, with a single tap to the screen.
There is a second solution list of conventional and organic brand names and active ingredients accompanied by application rates, pre-harvest intervals in days (PHI), restricted entry intervals in hours (REI) and a field environmental impact quotient (EIQ).
The Northeast disease app covers apples, pears, cherries and cranberries, the Southeast disease app covers strawberries, peaches and blueberries, while the Southeast pest app covers blueberries, strawberries, peaches and apples.
Schnabel continues to update the apps with more fruit, diseases, pests and new labels. Within the next few months, he said, the three apps will be combined into a single East Coast app and will include Northeastern fruit pest information, initially for apples and cherries.
Bayer Animal Health developed an iPhone and Android app used to calculate body condition scores on lactating cows. Called BCS Cowdition, the app uses the standard five-point body condition score system, as well as New Zealand’s 10-point score and Australia’s eight-point score.
Using the smartphone camera, farmers shoot pictures of their cows from the side and behind using appprovided, side- and rearview cow silhouettes. Next, they add more detailed descriptions of the animals’ hooks, pins and hips using the app’s tools.
Based on this information, the app computes a body condition score and plots it on a chart depicting ideal scores based on days of lactation.
Cattle Market Mobile
A beef cattle marketing app for iPhone and Android users, this app provides current auction market prices from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia and 26 other states. Covered cattle classes include feeder steers, bulls and heifers and slaughter cows and bulls.
The app also provides USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Prior Day Cow and Bull Reports, the National Day Direct Slaughter Report, National Weekly Direct (Domestic) Slaughter Report and the National Weekly Direct (Import) Slaughter Report. It also features futures data for cattle and meat, grain and oilseeds, currencies, oil and gas, metals, softs and rates.
Agrian Mobile is a free, iPhone-only app for crop chemical label lookup. It lists labels for crop protection products materials as well as other materials associated with production materials such as fertilizers, adjuvants, stabilizers and stickers. Searches can be done by crop, pest, product type, active ingredient and state registration.
Mix My Sprayer
Entomology professor Jeremy Greene of Clemson University developed this iPhone and Android app to help growers and farmers accurately calculate spray product mixes. Farmers and growers can use the app to create custom mixes of favorite crop protection products by category (herbicides, pesticides, fungicides), products (brand or generic names) or codes.
Enter the sprayer volume per area, a desired mix amount and the product’s labeled rate and the app automatically calculates the amount of active ingredient that should be mixed in the tank. The app allows users to save any mix for future reference.
4-H Livestock Record
The hardest part of 4-H livestock projects comes at the end, when it is time to fill out the record book. Typically, this time finds parents and project holders alike running around frantically looking for feed and veterinary receipts and scale tickets from early and midseason weigh-ins.
The National 4-H Council and Tractor Supply Company developed this iPhone-only app, which provides 4-H’ers and their parents an opportunity to enter and store project information as it becomes available. The reports this app generates make calculations such as average daily gains, project income, expenses and assets far easier to complete.