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It was just 11 months ago when I wrote my last blog on Ag apps. Since that time I have presented on the topic several times, added nearly 100 new apps, have filmed several designated segment on sunup featuring apps (these can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/osunpk), and released two (soon to be three) apps myself. Below is the introductory slide I have been using in all of my app talks, on this slide you can see how the number of apps have been increasing overtime. In this update I wanted to share some of the new sections I have added to manage the vast number apps and go through some of my favorite apps in each of the sections.
Finding the right app has not changed as I still just give an app 3 minutes before a keep or drop decision is made, however since a year ago some of the key words are now less useful. For example a search for wheat will bring up droves of gluten free diet apps. None of these fit the bill for what I am looking for. Though out the blog you can click on pictures screenshots to get a better view of the app buttons.
Ag News and Weather
Still a very large section with little change for my recommendations, just go with what suits you in layout and reporting. I personally use RonOnRON (Ron Hays, the voice of Oklahoma Agriculture), DTN/PF, AG/Web, and AgWired.
This includes peer review publications, resource guides and extension materials.
The majority of the Calculator apps preform relatively simple functions without the need of cellular or wifi connectivity. The Ag PhDs have two apps in the section I want to highlight, HarvestLoss and Fert. Removal. Both apps are useful tools in making management decisions. HarvestLoss allows the user to calculate the economic loss of a poorly set combine while Fert. Removal allows the user to select from a wide range of crops and see an exit ate of nutrient removal based upon selected yield level. Other useful apps are Growing Degree which allows the user to see cumulative heat units a crop has received anywhere in the US, Corn Yield Calc estimates corn yield based on ear girth and length, Canola Calc is a great apps produced by Pioneer which calculates the proper planting rate of canola based upon several factors and the Kansas Wheat Yield Calculator KWYC, uses growth stage stalk counts, height and/or NDVI to estimate potential grain yield.
This section is filled with University Extension handbooks such as Purdue’s Field Guide ($12.99), University of Arkansas Corn Advisor, University of Kentucky Corn Production, and one private groups MFA Agronomy. Each of these guides are quality apps and should be chosen based upon geography or personal preference. The university apps mirror their respective hard copies however UK’s app added a nice update section highlighting local Ag news. MFA’s app is strong in pesticides with good herbicide performance data.
For any producer who regularly applies animal waste the Manure Calc by the University of Nebraska is a great tool. The University of Wisconsin has a nice app in N Price Calculator and the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation association (SSCA) has created a nice fertilizer blend app. Oklahoma State University has Ammonia Loss Calculator which uses soil pH and environmental conditions to estimate N losses from surface applied urea.
I am also getting into the app game with two recently released apps the Canola Starter and Field Guide. Canola Starter provides a recommendation for safe starter rates based on row width and fertilizer source. Field Guide is app version of my Nutrient Management Field Guide, this app includes a nutrient removal calculator, nutrient deficiency ID tool, and fertilizer rate calculators. Along with these I have several in the wings with titles like Crop Nutrients in Irrigation, GDDs>0, and Wildlife FoodPlot.
As mentioned in my first two blogs the University of Missouri’s IDWeeds app was the first taxonomy based weed identification tool. I still use it regularly but both BASF and Monsanto have brought products to the table, both named WeedID, that are very user friendly and effective. Plant Images ($5.00) is a library of nutrient deficiency photos from a large selection of crops. Years and Ag PhDs also have apps available with deficiency images named Yara Checkit and Crop Nutrient Deficiencies. Cereal Disease ID app by BASF is intended for the UK and DuPonts Pestbook for Australian cotton farmers but I find that both can be very useful even in Oklahoma.
Pay to Play, Registrations
I have heard several good things about many of these apps. However they reguire the user to either be an employee or patron of the company or online registration. In a pay to pay app I would expect an all inclusive tool that could replace several free apps and preform record keeping duties.
To be honest this is not a section I use much as I do not have an operation to maintain records on. However just by walking through the apps Crop Calculator by the University of Wisconsin and Pesticide Recordkeeping (PeRK) by University of Nebraska.
This section has apps that I classify as decision aid tools that could be used by someone scouting crops and apps that can be used to map and or collect field notes. South Dakota State has two great tools in Soy Diseases and NPIPM Soybean Guide. Scout and Sirrus.
Company based, Pioneers app products are some of the best with Plantability and Estimator
Some things haven’t changed I still use Tank Mix Calc and Spray Select on a very regular basis. But over the past year a few companies have added product finders and Clemson University has released a very nice sprayer calibration app named Calibrate.
The last two apps are Mesonet and Climate Corp Basic. You will notice the background on the screen shot is slightly different. That is because neither of these apps is kept Ina folder, both are on my home screen. Whether it is rain, temp, or wind weather impacts all aspects of agriculture therefore these two apps are always within one tap. For any producer in Oklahoma the Mesonet is an amazing system with 120 automated weather stations spread evenly across the state. This app just provides this data with just a few swipes of the finger. For those outside of Ok Climate Basic allows producers to first save field of interest and then monitor rainfall and environmental conditions of each field. While not extremely accurate it is defiantly close enough for those with a wide territory to be a very handy app.
For more information and some screen shots of the apps in action either visit my website http://npk.okstate.edu/presentations or my YouTube site http://www.youtube.com/osunpk under the playlist OSU_NPK on Sunup.
Since my Ag App post in July I have presented on the topic an additional five times and have two more on the books for 2014. A good thing about doing talks is that you have to update the information to remain current. Which in all honesty, when it comes to technology of any kind this is quite challenging and even more so for Smart Phone Apps. In July when I first blogged on the subject I had 76 apps on my iPad. Today (1.3.14) I have 111 apps on my iPad, for both the iPhone and iPad, that I deem to be Ag related. Since the summer I have found new favorites, changed some, and added categories but for the most part I still maintain my 2 minute rule stated in the first blog. I have allowed a bit more leniency in that I now say “If I cannot figure it out in 3 minutes it’s GONE. An app should be intuitive, easy to use and have a purpose. They only exception to the 3 minute rule is the Scouting and Mapping Apps. Because of their complexity I allow them 5 minutes, and then I am done. Any app with GIS in its name gets much more time” I guess I am just getting soft.
Again I must make the obligatory statement; I am not a developer, designer, or expert. I am just a user who has had a chance to look at a few apps. Almost all of the apps I have are free and I am sure I have missed a few. Please share those with me. I am also not discussing Mobi’s, this is another large group of quality decision aid tools. I am also not discussing none apples apps. This is not because they are not relevant or important, it is because I do not have that technology.
I now have nine Ag folders on my iPad:
Ag News/Weather/Markets, Scouting/Mapping, Record Keeping, ID Tools, Crop Tools, Calculators, Sprayer/Chemicals, Fertilizer, Seed Select.
Apps are nice because the majority are stand alone and do not need internet or cell connection. This means they can be used when you are in the middle of nowhere, which is a great deal of Oklahoma, and have no service. This will exclude many of the Ag News/Weather/Markets, Scouting/Mapping, and Record Keeping apps that need positioning or location information.
Now let’s discuss some of the new and old apps.
Not much change in this group however I have added one or two.
This category has changed the most. Record keeping apps have been removed and several new apps added. The only free apps which can create boundaries are still Scout and Sirrus. To date Scout remains to be my favorite app for in field scouting notes. Pictures tagged with Lat Long and a note is very useful. My knock on is app is its boundary creation. It is a challenge every time as it is hard to remember the steps and not make a mistake. That is where Sirrus comes to play, by far the best boundary creation app. Sirrus has easy to use tools for both point and pivot boundaries. I like the edit vertex zoom in tool that resembles a rifle scope. I was able to add 12 fields in a matter of 20 minutes. Being able to create grid soil sampling scheme and record samples is also a very nice tool. My favorite part of the app, the UNDO button, and all apps should include this. The drawback to Sirrus is that it has no ability to take notes such as Scout. An additional nice scouting tool is South Dakota States NPIPM (North Plains IPM) app. This app provides not only a pest id tool with morphological drop down, I will discuss this in the ID Tools cat, but also management recommendation for the identified insect.
The majority of the apps in this category are “Pay to Play”, which makes since as they deal with data management and storage. Many would also fit the Scouting/Mapping category. As I do not pay for many apps I do not have experience with any of these. However this is the category that I would recommend any group to look at as they should be the all-inclusive app. However, PeRK by the University of Nebraska is a free app designed for field records of pesticide applicators.
I have added a few apps to this category but my favorites have not changed. I regularly use Plant Images, ID Weeds, and the Pestbook as references. I will add more discuss to app ID tools. The importance of being able to ID weeds and Pest via morphological drop down menus (ID Weeds and NPIPM) is extremely important. Many of the ID tools just have pictures and names. Well is I am using an ID Tool I likely do not know what I am looking at or what it is called.
Crop Tools includes my second “Paid in Full” app. And this one hurt a bit more. Not because it cost money but because I have multiple versions of the hard copy. However Field Guide by Purdue is one of my most recommended apps. Field Guide is the electronic version of the Purdue Corn and Soybean Field Guide, which the majority of consultants in the Corn Belt likely have this sitting in their truck. The Stoller apps also have nice very nice image bank of plant developmental phases. FieldGuide and CornAdvisor, another good app, are great examples of what I expect to be coming out of the majority of the Land Grant Universities very soon. Cooperative Extension has hundreds if not thousands of quality hard copy publications just waiting to be turned in to handy dandy apps. To be honest I am working on turning my Nutrient Management Field Guide into an app right now.
Only two apps has been added to this category. I am still using Fert.Removal, HarvestLoss and Growing Degrees on a regular basis.
Many apps have been added to this group but none of them have been good enough to kick TankMixCalc and SpraySelect of my favorites list.
Similar to the Sprayer/Chemicals category several apps have been added to this group, including several from Ok State. For me the Fert Cost Calc is still very useful. I do not get to use the Manure Calc I am very impressed by its layout and user friendliness. This app allows for applicator calibration, nutrient recs and manure value estimator.
It is no surprise the apps in this category are company created. I will say for the central Great Plains Pioneer’s Canola Calc is very useful tool for selecting canola planting rate providing input for row spacing live plants, seed weight, Germ percent, and survival percent.
To wrap up this blog I want to share with you may new Favorite none ag app. Bump is a huge time saver for anyone who takes pics with your iPhone or iPad. Bump allows easy transfer between mobile devices but more importantly between your mobile device and desktop by a simple tap of the space bar. This file share will go both directions. This means no more emailing pictures from your phone so that you can have them on your desktop. Bump is a iPhone app that can work on the iPad.
When searching with an IPad, remember to switch the search to include IPhone apps, there are some good ones out there that are IPhone only. Check out www.npk.osktate.edu/presentations to see screen shots from many of my favorite apps.
So I am going to approach a subject in this blog that is Not in my wheelhouse. At the first of the year I was asked by a friend to speak on Ag Apps at the 2013 InfoAg meetings. His thought was, hey this guy teaches Precision Ag and uses a IPad, he must know apps. Well, not so much. From January to the day before the talk in July I spent a great deal of time scouring the App store and working, my wife described it as playing, on my IPad. At info Ag I gave two talks, at the time of first talk on Tuesday I had 53 Free apps (1 paid), by the next morning and my second talk I had 60.
Since the meeting I have had numerous request for the slides and etc, so I thought this would be a good opportunity for a blog. Since InfoAg (7.17.2013) I have picked up even more apps, the total is now 76. However many of the new apps require registration.
On my IPad I have organized the apps into 8 basic folders:
ID Tools, Calculators, Seed, Sprayer/Chemical, Fertilizer, New/Weather/Markets, Scouting, Ag Apps (apps I don’t know what to do with).
While I have 76 Apps I of course don’t use them all. What follows is basically my Editors Choice from each group. Please note I have not had the time to work with all 76 Apps. And I am by no means an expert in Apps or the use of them.
I do have a basic require of any App I use. If I can not figure it out in 2 minutes its GONE. An app should be intuitive, easy to use and have a purpose. They only exception to the 2 minute rule is the Scouting Apps. Because of their complexity I allow them 5 minutes, then I am done.
This Category holds the One and Only App I paid for, Plant Images, a library of Nutrient Deficiency photos. I mean I am a Soil Fertility guy.
I regularly use Plant Images, ID Weeds, and the Pestbook as references. ID weeds is a true ID tool as you can use attributes to ID your weed, while the other two are visual reference tools.
I personally use the two Nutrient Removal Apps the most, but after the latest update AG-PhDs Fert. Removal has become my favorite as it allows you to entire any yield level.
Harvest loss is also a handy App that lets you put $ to combine inefficiencies.
This group contains two of my first Ag Apps and most frequently used.
Being a fertilizer guy herbicides are not my forte however I use the often.
TankMixCalc and SpraySelect has been in my App arsenal from the beginning.
The nice item about many of the Sprayer Apps is the ability to save/store mixes or provide record keeping.
Now the Fertilizer Apps are right up my alley. But the only ones I use are the Cost Calcs. As far as fertilizer recommendations go you must remember they are quite regionally specific so the Wisconsin Corn N rate Calculator does me little to no good.
This is the category that I have the most apps. My first was Agriculture (DTN/PF), so I fall back to it often but I also like AgIndex and AgWeb. With the news/marketing ext apps the biggest key is find one that a) reports on topics of interest to you, they do differ and b) has a layout and design that is easy to use and enjoy.
The Scouting tools are a bit different, most but not all require registration of some kind. I like most that I have tried but each has their own high and low points. The use of a scouting tool will be highly dependent upon uses, goals, and what companies you currently work with. For example Field Notes 360 has some nice points, you can make notes on photos, but you have to be a Pioneer employee or customer to get full use, I like Scout (Connected Farm) note taking capability and the fact you can input GreenSeeker NDVI values. I have the beta version of Sirrus but I can all ready tell you it is shaking out to be my favorite. Two wins for Sirrus, its method of creating and editing boundaries is top notch but what I like the most is its ability to set up a direct grid sampling.
I don’t expect any app to change my life or yours, but it may make it easier.
The ID Tools, Calculators, Sprayer/Chem and Fertilizer apps are nice when I am in the field with a producer and just break out the IPad for easy demo/explanation.
There is a multitude of apps available and more being produced every day. Just as everything else find what suites you regardless of others opinions. When searching with an IPad remember to switch the search to include IPhone apps, there are some good ones out there that are IPhone only.
If you want to see my presentation from InfoAg, checkout their website www.infoag.org/program3 or go to the http://www.NPK.osktate.edu website and download the PDF of the slides under the Presentation tab.