Field Tools Refined

How can scouts be more efficient and effective, whether walking or riding the acres they’re called to service? That’s the key question that David Krueger of AgRenaissance Software finds his crop consultant customers asking. They’re picking up additional acres to keep business going; “therefore, they have to work smarter. They’re looking for tools and ideas that will help them be more efficient in collecting field samples, scheduling and time management, data sharing, and data management,” he says.

For 20 years, Spectrum Technologies has been a major supplier of many “nitty gritty” measuring tools. The company specializes in ag weather stations and nutrient and soil moisture management equipment. Just this past fall, a redesigned Cardy Nitrate Meter made its debut — a possible boon in light of current concerns about nitrogen (N) prices and efficient N use. “As the plants develop, scouts can collect petioles, crush them in a garlic press, collect the sap, and then do tests to see how much N the plants are picking up,” says Cynthia Turski, integrated pest management specialist.

Other newer tools for this season are an array of light sensors and meters. Formerly used primarily in research, the units have come down in price and can give scouts a better idea of how much light is hitting plants. One unit, the 2475 PAR sensor, can measure the 400-700 nanometer wave range. Agronomists can then calculate the quantity (moles) per day a crop is receiving.

One red/far red light reflectance meter can measure the NDVI (Normalized Different Vegetation Index) of a crop — a number developed by the scientific community that relates to how much photosynthesis is going on in a plant, says Aaron Johnsen, green industry consultant with Spectrum. The data is especially helpful in determining if a plant is under nitrogen or drought stress. Johnsen says the meter has been used most in corn, but in January the firm will be releasing one for small grains.

Eric Lund, owner of Veris Technologies, announced that dealers can get better reads on soil pH with a key update on the Veris Mobile Sensor Platform (MSP), an on-the-go pH and EC sensing and mapping system. “A new metal pH electrode has improved the performance significantly, improving data quality and reducing operating costs significantly,” says Lund. “Our clients are busier than ever, with more acres lined up for mapping.”

Handheld Heaven

Handheld computers such as iPAQs and PDAs have become a major tool for scouts who need to log data on soil sampling and pests. The PocketRecon from AgRenaissance runs on a PDA. “It’s been completely rewritten so it’s faster and better and can communicate wireless to a server,” says Krueger. “More importantly, it can now be customized for retailers, chemical companies, seed companies, and anyone else that is looking for a field collection tool that will communicate wirelessly back to the company server.”

Brian Stark, Farm Works marketing manager, says many veteran scouts are looking for something more rugged than an iPAQ. His company has offered the TitanRT for three seasons. This tough computer — an American Society of Agricultural Engineers AE 50 award winner — features a huge 8.5-inch diagonal screen and allows scouts to use their existing GPS receiver along with the Farm Works “Mate” programs to perform a wide range of tasks in the field.

Stark touts Trimble’s Nomad as a “new handheld device that’s been a very hot commodity with scouts. It offers built-in GPS and a rocket-fast processor that utilizes Windows Mobile 6. The screen is the same size as an iPAQ (3.5-inch diagonal), but nothing comes close when comparing other small rugged computers.” Now available is a new broadband wireless modem for the Nomad that allows users to communicate from the field to office or other locations where Sprint cellular connectivity is available in the U.S.

SST Software has its own entry in this arena, the SST Field PC. Mark Waits, marketing manager, says this ultra-rugged and ultra-efficient pocket-sized PC is shockproof and waterproof — and can come with SST Stratus installed. “Sealed CF and SD card slots can accommodate a GPS receiver, extra data storage, wi-fi, or cellular modem cards,” he says.

Even conventional iPAQs can be improved, Stark says, with Farm Works’ new Site Mate program interface. “The new interface makes for easy, quick data entry by providing larger buttons and more map area for viewing information,” he says. Scouts can avoid using the iPAQ stylus and use fewer clicks to navigate the program.

Data Management

Scouting data management is a big topic for tool developers these days. Krueger says many consultants are currently saving time by e-mailing field scouting reports from the truck in the field to a grower — who can then receive it on his cell phone and call the retailer to place an order. “Data also has to be shared across different systems and between retailers, applicators, labs, etc.,” he says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

AgRenaissance Software LLC
Raleigh, NC
877-518-8030

ESRI
Redlands, CA
800-447-9778 

Farm Works Software
Hamilton, IN
800-225-2848

SST Development Group
Stillwater, OK
888-377-5334

Spectrum Technologies
Plainfield, IL
800-248-8873

Trimble
Sunnyvale, CA
408-481-8000

Veris Technologies
Salina, KS
785-825-197

Standardized data collection software is becoming more important to dealers, says Waits. “SST Summit and Stratus users can now ‘synchronize’ field data with any other Summit user with the click of a button,” he describes, so a grower and the service provider have full access to all historical data recorded on a farm.

“We’ve found that one of the biggest delays to having good records and maps is getting data from the field to the office. Too often we hear stories that people have a drawer full of data cards, USB drivers, or PDAs full of data,” says Stark. It often sits untapped because the user doesn’t have time to sit down and read it. Farm Works has released wireless programs called Farm Works Sync (for field data) and Farm Works Dispatch (for vehicle monitoring) that utilize a wireless system, typically cell services, to automatically transfer information from the field to the office.

Mark Bechdol, federal land and natural resources and agriculture lead with GIS specialist ESRI, says that in the next five to 10 years, cell phone-based GPS technology is going to be good enough to do serious scouting logging for growers and dealers. He describes how they could simply hit a field with an iPhone, make a voice recording of field notes on the phone, and tag it with the GPS location. “We’re going to have far more ability to collect data at any time, any place and it’s going to be pretty accurate,” he says. “But we’re going to have challenges in dealing with that amount of data — how do we process it, store it, and keep it secure?” Bechdol says ESRI has released its ArcGIS Mobile SDK (software development kit) that allows mobile field collection devices such as smartphones, Blackberry, iPhone, and Treo to do real-time editing of data with web browsers, “as if it were a mini GIS right there on your phone.”

A powerful “product” that service providers can offer their clients is real-time aggregate data reporting, says Waits. So many providers are collecting standardized data, why not pool it together in a decision support program? Participants in a data pool could remain anonymous but have access to query it or ask questions. “An example would be to map the movement of an insect or disease across a county, state, or regions in order to protect fields before the pest arrives,” explains Waits.

Leave a Reply

Software Stories
SoftwareBlending Software To Address Every Need Of Ag Retail
March 3, 2014
This year’s packages cover more facets of dealer businesses than ever. Read More
SoftwareNew Crop Scouting App Now Available For Ag Retailers
September 3, 2013
AgraScout is a data management and communications tool used by retailers, consultants, and others to track and report conditions in a particular farm location. Read More
SoftwareWinfield Launches New Mapping Capabilities For R7 Tool
August 29, 2013
Winfield has announced the addition of a Field Response Map and a Profitability Map for its R7 Tool at 2013 Farm Progress Show. Read More
SoftwareTrimble Launches Connected Farm Dashboard
August 29, 2013
The company claims its new dashboard enables better decision making by putting key data at growers’ fingertips. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
Carl Casale of CHS
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
Latest News
FungicidesSyngenta Suing Willowood Over Azoxystrobin Fungicide
March 27, 2015
Syngenta announced today that it has sued agrochemical maker Willowood, LLC., for patent and copyright infringement, as well as unfair Read More
ManagementRetail Week: The Future Of Mycogen Seeds; The 4Rs At Na…
March 27, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Matt Hopkins discuss recent trips, including a look at the future of Mycogen Seeds at Dow Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto Hears The WHO
March 27, 2015
Another challenge to the safety of glyphosate, and the responses from supporters and opponents, calls to mind a classic Dr. Seuss story. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Plant Food Expands Sales Team
March 27, 2015
Monty’s Plant Food Company, a leader in natural soil enhancement and  plant fertility products, has hired Andrew Bullock as a Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Louisiana Plant Poised For 2015 Production
March 26, 2015
As the 2015 planting season gets underway, growers across the country will need crop protection products to combat pests and Read More
Lake Erie Nutrient Stewardship
LegislationOhio Lawmakers Finalize Phosphorus Restrictions
March 25, 2015
State lawmakers on Wednesday finalized new rules designed to curb toxic algal blooms on Lake Erie, calling the regulations a major step forward in addressing the problem. Read More
Spreaders17 Fertilizer Spreaders For 2015
March 25, 2015
Manufacturers shoot for versatility and accuracy in this year's crop of fertilizer spreaders. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Hires Mid-South Product Consultant
March 25, 2015
Monty's Plant Food Co. has hired Matt Woodring as a Product Consultant for portions of Central Kentucky and Tennessee.    Read More
StewardshipMapShots Integrates With DriftWatch
March 23, 2015
Growers and agricultural providers using AgStudio FARM and AgStudio PRO can now view vital information about specialty crops and apiaries through a recent integration with the DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site Registry from FieldWatch, Inc. Read More
Crop InputsWorld Health Organization Report Contradicts Scientific…
March 23, 2015
A new report from the World Health Organization has classified glyphosate with a “2A” rating as a probable carcinogen, a Read More
Eric SfiligojSeed Treatment Stays Necessary
March 20, 2015
Grower-customers looking to scale back spending in 2015 won’t consider seed treatment, say experts. Read More
HerbicidesMARCH MADNESS: Industry Rallies Around Glyphosate Safet…
March 20, 2015
A newly published report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the herbicide glyphosate as a "2A-rated possible carcinogen" and the ag industry responds by circling the wagons. Read More
ManagementRetail Week: Precision survey, a technology acquisition…
March 20, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sflilgoj discuss recent travel, the upcoming precision adoption survey, and an unusual sighting at a Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Launching TerraGrow Soil Inoculant
March 20, 2015
TerraGrow is a blend of beneficial bacterial and fungal spores and nutrients carefully designed to promote healthier soil and crops. Read More
Winter Wheat
AdjuvantsMax Systems Debuts New Adjuvant NanoRevolution 2.0
March 18, 2015
Added to a tank mix of glyphosate at the conservative rate of two to four ounces per acre, NanoRevolution 2.0 has proven effective in killing resistant weed species that had already had up to two applications of the leading glyphosate product. Read More
Photo credit: United Soybean Board/the Soybean Checkoff
Seed/BiotechAgnition Launches Microbial Catalyst Seed Treatment
March 18, 2015
Agnition it has launched Commence for Soybeans, a microbial catalyst seed treatment for soybeans that stimulates microbial activity for healthier soil and a superior growth environment. Read More
4R Certified, Nutrient Stewardship Council,
StewardshipTyler Grain & Fertilizer Now 4R Certified
March 18, 2015
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced Tyler Grain & Fertilizer Co. in Smithville, OH, has been added to Read More