Bastrop Daily Enterprise - Bastrop, LA
  • Farming and telecommunications intersect with farming apps

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  • The smartphone has revolutionized how businesses, both large and small, manage their itineraries, workers and finances, and it’s utility has extended to the agricultural community here in Northeast Louisiana.
    Smartphones and texting have transformed how area farmers communicate with a variety of individuals including employees, business partners, chemical companies and seed suppliers.
    “The farmers that you deal with primarily use their phones to monitor the markets and the weather,” Otis Hill, Assistant Area Agent for Morehouse Parish, LSU AgCenter, said.
    According to Bruce Garner, County Agent for Agricultural and Natural Resources in West Carroll, the smartphone has provided both he and farmers with a variety of tools to help complete their jobs.
    Garner finds the Natural Resources Conservation Services soils app convenient for helping determine the type of soil that is in a particular field. The app uses the GPS information stored in a user's smartphone to determine their location and then provides the soil type based on that data.
    "Most farmers know the type of soil they have," Garner said, "but when farmers lease a new piece of land, it can help."
    "I also use Google Earth on my phone to view fields. Some of the imagery is recent, from the past couple of years, and the fields are established, so the images can be used to to look at elevation."
    Garner also uses a smartphone app named Spy Glass for some surveying applications. According to Garner, it can provide the declination of a certain slop by using a motion sensor and the camera on the phone.
    For farmers working in areas with limited data availability, Garner said texting has proved invaluable, as farmers can sign up for daily text alerts that provide the opening and closing price at market for individual crops, such as soybeans.
    Area farmers also have access to apps created by the state office of the LSU AgCenter to assist with rice and soybean farming and provide burn weather forecasts. These applications can load on a desktop computer, laptop or smartphone and are easily bookmarked for routine access.
    The Soybean Field Guide app offers information about insect, weed and disease problems as a supplement to the support and insight local ag agents can provide. A similar AgCenter app, Rice Scout, targets the same problem areas for rice farmers.
    However, a third app that is still in beta, or testing, form focuses on the weather and should hold the most interest for experienced farmers. Fire Cast provides the prescribed burning weather forecast for individual zip codes in the U.S.
    For example, when Bastrop zip code “71220” is entered, the forecast for Morehouse, West Carroll and East Carroll Parishes appear as does the forecast for both Ashley and Chicot county. Information displayed includes cloud cover, precipitation chances and types, a vent index and expected rain duration.
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