AmericanFarm.com

You name it: Agriculture has an app for that

By SEAN CLOUGHERTY
Managing Editor

MELFA, Va. (Jan. 31, 2017) — There are more than 2 billion mobile applications, or apps, available for smart phones and tablets, and that can be overwhelming to farmers looking for apps to use that will do them some good.
“There are new apps added every single day, so you have to filter through that,” said Mike Swoish, a graduate research assistant at Virginia Tech, at last week’s Eastern Shore Agriculture Conference and Trade Show. “A good app should make your life easier, more productive and simpler.”
Swoish said it can be easy to get lost in the sea of apps and said he’s found it easier to think first of what would help you on the farm then check if it is available.
“Search for what you might need. Odds are it’s already out there,” he said. “With all of the technology in agriculture, most of it is going to be tied to your cell phone.”
Swoish detailed some of the apps he’s found helpful, like Farmlogs, that can record rainfall, log field activities and get alerts to crop threats. 
Others help in managing livestock, identifying pests, making in the field calculations and getting real-time market news.
Swish recommended as universal apps to have on your phone is a weather program, a program to read Microsoft Word and Excel files, a PDF viewer — one for taking and recording notes — an optical reader that can scan and process codes and text and a social media platform like Twitter to others who can offer information to aid in-field decision making.
He said his focus in using mobile technology is to utilize what’s easily accessible and inexpensive or free, expecting that farmers would opt or the same route.
“We’re trying to make our research correspond with what growers are doing in the field,” Swoish said.
Part of his research in soil fertility uses satellite imagery to estimate crop biomass in wheat crops.
He uses the free Canopeo app, he measures field vegetation going into dormancy to help make decisions on future planting time, replanting or using a growth regulator after breaking dormancy.
And like any tool, mobile apps should not be the only things you use and Swoish cautioned growers from relying to heavily on them.
Apps may save a few trips to the field to check the rain gauge but growers still need to scout crops in person.
“They’re nice in the field to get a quick update,” he said. “I would not run your nutrient management plan from your phone.”
A similar sentiment came from Dr. Steve Rideout, Extension plant pathologist and director of the Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Painter, Va.
“Apps can’t replace plant pathologists,” Rideout said before starting the next presentation, garnering some laughs. “We are still necessary entities.”