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New Apps Help Western Farmers

Cotton producers are increasingly taking advantage of smartphone technology to improve the effectiveness of their operations. In the Western Cotton Belt, a number of smartphone applications or apps, specific to that region, are taking office work into the field.

Given the unique nature of the arid West, cropping tools used in other parts of the Cotton Belt have little use in California, Arizona or New Mexico. Therefore, app developers are relying on methods and models originated in the West to build the applications.

Over the last 30 years, the University of Arizona has worked with cotton producers and crop production specialists to develop computer programs that effectively track crop progress. The programs were cumbersome, in that data had to be transferred from the field to the farm office, usually on paper, and input by hand into the computer. Currently, all smartphone-technology has an effective capability to allow data to be uploaded in the field, with a real-time analysis taking place at the time of input. One app created by UA’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is called Mobile Cotton. It can provide information on crop progress based on the accumulation of heat units. The ability to make real-time cropping decisions saves time and energy, while providing a reference of proven science for the producer. The app also includes access to the university’s Arizona Meteorological Network or AZMET for current and historical weather data, which is used in the working models.

Another Tool For Producers
With so many cotton producers already using their phones to get commodity prices or connect with those marketing their crops, adding tools to aid plant progress should be a natural step.

westernreportAnother app developed at the University of Arizona is Differentiating Diseases of Early Season Cotton. As the app name indicates, it is a tool for identifying disease problems in young cotton – a less bulky and more accessible version of a college plant disease textbook. The app is an on-hand and in-field index of plant diseases. The reference guide to the diseases of cotton is also a direct link to a UA plant pathologist who can help with identification and advise on helping treat the plant. Both apps are free to cotton producers and can be downloaded at: cals.arizona.edu/mobilecotton/ and apps.cals.arizona.edu/cottondiseases/main.html#home.

Like producers across the Cotton Belt, Western producers are beginning to take full advantage of global positioning systems to track module and bale locations. And, gin software developers are including smartphone apps in their packages.

Melissa Campbell, manager of River Gin in Coolidge, Ariz., says last season several of her producers used MyModules in conjunction with the eCotton-brand gin software. Producers were able to tag their modules digitally. The location and number of that module is instantly uploaded to the gin, where it is scheduled for pickup. “One of my growers was in a bad reception area,” says Campbell. “But, other than that, we didn’t have many problems receiving the information.” She paused shortly to add, “Unless they accidentally enter the wrong module number.”

Smooth Transition For App
Users Aside from human error or bad cell reception, the app works well for its intended purpose, although some producers balked at the fee to add the app to their phone. At about $10, it is comparable to other app prices. MyModule can be used by custom harvesters to pinpoint the location of a module without revealing other information that the producer wishes to keep secure. Most applications catering to cotton farmers can be vetted through producer and ginner groups or by local Extension services. Reviews for the apps can be found on independent download sites such as iTunes or Google Apps.

Brent Murphree is the Cotton Board’s Regional Communication Manager for the West. Contact him at bmurphree@cottonboard.org or (602) 810-1171.