That’s because there’s an app, called Windfinder, for knowing which way the wind blows, along with how hard it’s blowing and whether it’s a good idea to spray chemicals that day or not. (Dylan also sang about how “the answer is blowing in the wind.” He might have made a pretty good meteorologist if the songwriting thing hadn’t worked out.)
Windfinder is one of many apps that Wilson County Agriculture and natural resources extension agent Bryan Davis mentioned in a webinar about apps for the modern farmer, rancher, gardener or anyone else who wants to know the identity of that weed in the field, pasture or pond and how to get rid of it. Thousands of such apps are available to everybody, from specialists to people who don’t know poop from shinola.
For example, the Cow Poop Analyzer app affirms not only that the poop came from a cow but also spits out facts and figures about the nutrition and digestibility of what the cow’s been eating. As another poet, Yogi Berra, once said, “The future’s not what it used to be.”
The producers Davis works with as an Extension agent are increasingly tech savvy but overwhelmed by the multitude of apps available to them, mostly through smart phones but also web-based applications. Davis talked about a couple of dozen apps in his presentation, but strongly urged producers to do their own research before downloading anything.
“Like anything that’s web-based or on the Internet, you have to know your source,” he said.
Information from Extension offices, the state and reputable agriculture companies are usually your safest bets, he added.
While most of the apps related to agriculture are free, some have to be paid for. Some are free initially, but you have to pay for upgrades. Davis said that’s not always a bad thing.
“It’s amazing — we’ll pay five bucks for a cup of coffee at Starbucks but we won’t pay $1.99 for an app that can probably ease our daily life or get us through record-keeping a little bit quicker,” he said. He said apps are the new “black book and number 2 pencil.”
The Windfinder app lets the user choose a weather station through a map view, by clicking on the “around me” option, or by country. The “around me” option shows a list of weather stations closest to the user, along with the current conditions, including wind speed, at that location. The user can choose the closest station, or choose to let the app rank the nearby weather stations by wind speed. “It’s really nice for me when I start spraying my fields,” Davis said.
The Cow Poop Analyzer lets the user estimate forage quality for livestock on pastures and maintain records with just a picture of the cow patty. The photo the user takes is compared to stock photos to determine the approximate crude protein and digestibility of the forage the cattle are consuming. The user can save the photo with a title and pasture number and date, and the information will be available for future reference.
Davis also likes the ArcGIS app by Esri, which allows users to combine high-resolution photos with field observations and real-time data feeds to make key management decisions. Davis said this is one of his five favorite apps for helping producers answer questions about their operation.
Other apps Davis talked about in his presentation included AquaPlant; the Texas Farm Pond Management Calendar; a Stocking Rate Calculator for Grazing Livestock; and a Cotton Root Rot Return to Treatment Calculator from Texas AgriLife Extension.
Apps from other Extension services include SoilWeb; LeafSnap; ID; Pesticide Applicator Records; and Sprayer Calibration. Apps from commercial companies include Ag Weed ID; Mix Tank 2.0; Soil Survey Map and Beef Cow BCS.
“There are a lot of apps out there, and more are coming online every day,” Davis said. “Do your own research before you download anything.”