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Smartphones are becoming more entrenched in the daily life of a farmer. Having email and web access is certainly a big plus to the devices, but the applications make their effectiveness even stronger. Speaking anecdotally to farmers, a weather app is always the most common, usually followed by something to check the markets. From there, the applications used can be as diverse as the products farmers are producing.

For grain and oilseed producers, crop scouting is an important tool for identifying pressures. Through the growing season, a farmer needs to stay on top of weed and insect pressures. When crops come off, it can be a good time to repair drainage problems or review yield-mapping information to try and determine why a particular spot in a field is consistently below average. This is where some new applications can be a big help.

Take ScoutDoc as an example. Peter Gredig is the Vice-President of AgNition, the company behind the iPad app that was designed to eliminate the clipboard and pen at the same time as improving communication. “We knew this was a perfect fit for a tablet and we knew we could be on the leading edge of the technology,” Gredig says. The app was released in early 2012. Among the features of the app is importing a satellite map image, and then making notes on it as you scout. The report can then be printed or emailed. An update submitted to Apple and pending approval (as of early March) will include GPS functionality that auto-generates the satellite maps based on the location and even can drop pins where there is an issue that needs attention. Gredig adds, “If a farmer and agronomist both have the app, communication is seamless and records can be kept years down the road to manage recurring issues. It can have a big impact on the bottom line”

An app available for Apple and Android devices comes from Trimble, whose portfolio includes precision agriculture equipment and software. “Ultimately, Trimble believes Connected Farm can help a farmer make better decisions about his farm,” Brian Stark notes. Stark is the Marketing Communications Specialist for Trimble’s Agriculture Division. Among the functions of this app is using the phone’s built-in GPS to map field boundaries, flag points of interest, take geo-referenced photos, and enter scouting information for pests. There is also the ability to calculate recommended nitrogen rates when using a GreenSeeker handheld crop sensor. Stark says data can then be viewed and analyzed online, if the farmer likes. Not only can the benefits be better record keeping, but it can also increase profitability, according to Stark. “The app can provide valuable information that farmers can use to make better decisions about their farms, which improves the bottom line.”

The bottom line with any crop scouting app, is the idea that a farmer can have better records over the long-term and have better communication with their crop team (whether that will be an agronomist, custom sprayer, etc.). It may also mean scouting happens more regularly, given the ease. Whichever way you look at it, crop scouting apps can have a big impact on your data bank and as both Gredig and Stark point out – your bottom-line.