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 firstname.lastname@example.org – 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?
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
Summer is a great time for on-farm workshops, tours, field days! Our eOrganic dairy team members are offering some of these events to highlight results from their USDA OREI and other projects.
Brad Heins, University of Minnesota, is spearheading the Minnesota Organic Dairy Day to be held in Morris, Minnesota at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center on 8/12. The day will include tours and presentations on cover crops and summer annuals for grazing, dairy fodder systems, walk-through fly traps and summer fly control, and animal health.
Heather Darby, University of Vermont, has organized an organic dairy workshop series, in partnership with the Northeast Organic Dairy Farming Association of Vermont. Four on-farm workshops will be held on certified organic dairy farms on focusing on: grazing, summer annuals and no grain organic dairy production (7/18); summer annuals, pasture pod irrigation, and animal health (8/19); soils, foliar sprays, and nutrient dense forages (8/28); and crop diversification, hay-in-a-day, and robotic milkers & grazing (9/9). Learn more at http://www.uvm.edu/extension/
If you have upcoming events you'd like to post, feel free post calendar items in your eOrganic group or contact eOrganic staff member Deb Heleba.
The Plant Breeding and Genomics Community of Practice with eXtension.org conducted a series of webinars by researchers about breeding vegetable and fruit crops. Find all the recordings here. Although not all the webinars in the series dealt specifically with organic production, they may still be of interest to organic plant breeders, and the following webinars highlighted the work of projects that are partnering with eOrganic:
The Organic Seed Alliance announced the distribution of their 2014 organic producer seed survey. This national survey is conducted every five years to monitor organic seed availability and use, challenges in sourcing organic seed, and organic plant breeding needs, among other important topics. Findings from this survey will be included in an updated version of our State of Organic Seed report (first published in 2011). If you are a certified organic crop producer, your participation is essential to this national assessment, even if you do not currently use organic seed. Take the survey here.
SARE has recently released a new publication: Pest Management for Sustainable Season Extension, which is available for download here. It describes the results of a SARE-funded study conducted by Cornell University researchers on the efficacy of biological insect control in minimally heated greenhouses and high tunnels. Researchers conducted 23 case studies involving tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, winter greens and peppers grown in greenhouses and high tunnels at nine locations in upstate New York from 2007 to 2009. This fact sheet reports the results and provides detailed advice on how growers can use natural enemies to manage insect pests in minimally heated greenhouses and unheated high tunnels.
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This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.