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Mobile Apps Help No-Tillers Make Better Decisions in the Field

No-Till Farmer Magazine

Article Reprinted by Permission
By: Ian Gronau

Time Saving Ag Apps

Farm-based apps can help no-tillers manage traffic, improve fertilizer efficiency, scout effectively and learn more about farm soils.

For many no-tillers, the field of ag-specific mobile apps can feel a bit like the Wild West.

The general-use app market seems to be saturated and difficult to navigate, and the market for farming apps is no different. A broad search of “agriculture” in Apple’s App Store alone turns up 720 results.

Luckily, the market for farming apps has been evolving; separating the wheat from the chaff is a process that has been happening naturally. The most useful apps are apparently being selected for survival based on customer feedback and reviews.

Still, the time a user must spend learning to use each individual app, and the amount of data they must input before they get useful output, has many farmers asking: is it worth it?

To bring some clarity, No-Till Farmer surveyed readers about what mobile apps they use in their operations, and what value they provided. We also asked about the frustrations apps created, and which apps no-tillers had on their wish lists to improve efficiency and productivity in their operations.

Ag App Prevalence
According to the No-Till Farmer poll, there are plenty of growers who’ve jumped on the farming app bandwagon, but others are still mulling the idea or flatly refusing to do so. But that may come with the cost of missed opportunities in farming precision, accuracy and efficiency.

Some 45% of respondents say they use several different ag apps on a regular basis, and 28% report using them in only a limited capacity (one or two different apps). Some 10% of no-tillers say they don’t currently use ag apps, but are interested in learning, while 17% don’t make use of them at all.

Many farmers were using the same or similar apps. For instance, Ag PhD was mentioned by 24% of respondents, making it the most popular in the survey. So it’s clear there’s a trend toward farmers adding highly specialized apps to their operation and creating significant value with their use.

Integration into Fertility Programs
For Bill Rohloff, the ag app payoff came in the form helping him catch a minor issue before it became a problem. Rohloff, who no-tills corn, soybeans and wheat on about 1,200 acres near Fort Atkinson, Wis., admits he only uses a few apps, but a recent experience with an app designed to work with a fertilizer blockage monitor inspired him to be more proactive with integrating apps in 2015.

Time Saving Ag Apps
TIME SAVING APPS. Lisa Holscher, a soil health program manager with the Indiana Conservation Croppping Systems Initiative, works with farmers throughout the state on improving their farm’s soil health. In her work with farmers, she’s seen many replacing cumbersome handbooks with their app counterparts to save time when hunting for information.

Last spring, Rohloff planned to apply zinc as pop-up fertilizer for corn. He was ready to hit the field, but rain pushed him back several days.

“Zinc is kind of hard to keep agitated,” says Rohloff. “What happens, if it sits for a few days, is that it starts to crystallize. Then you’ve got to clean the filter on the pump. Sometimes I’ve had it happen and probably never realized it.”

When Rohloff did get into the field, his newly installed CDS-John Blue Liquid Blockage Monitor System and the companion app, quickly indicated that 2 rows were suffering from a blockage.

“Some of the zinc had crystallized in the manifold of the planter,” says Rohloff. “On my iPad, I could tell that the flow rate was down and I was continually getting two plugged rows. The holes are so small and hard to get to. The only thing I could do was give it a few taps with a hammer to sort of break it free. But it worked, and after that things started flowing freely.”

Many companies are releasing companion apps for their products to increase convenience and functionality, and they’re often free. In Rohloff’s case, it was the liquid blockage monitor system itself that detected the plugged rows, but the app’s built in alarm, that sounds when flow drops beneath a certain threshold, and the precise flow value displayed, is what helped him catch the problem quickly.

Additionally, he was able to gauge the effectiveness of his impromptu repair by consulting the exact numerical value of flow displayed on his iPad rather than just eyeballing the monitor.

“You normally wouldn’t know the exact amount going through, but with the app you can see the values to the individual rows,” says Rohloff. “You can see a problem right away, instead of having to look back or guess. There is so much technology today and you have to justify everything you bring in, but something like this is pretty easy to justify.”

Apps used for fertilizer application was a popular category in the survey, with 26% of respondents making use of at least one.

For More Information Contact
Diana Kuhl Stubbs
Vice President of Marketing
CDS-John Blue Company