The Cooperative Extension Service has for decades been the viable outlet for information transfer be-tween Cotton Incorporated and cotton farmers. With declining public funding to support what the Extension Service does, Cotton Incorporated has begun looking at additional methods of relaying important research results and production advice, in general, to cotton farmers.
“We are definitely starting to see a real value in developing information-transfer strategies utilizing personal hand-held technologies,” says Dr. Ryan Kurtz, director of agriculture and environmental research at Cotton Incorporated. Not surprisingly, those strategies are now incorporating smartphones, tablets and related apps. An app called Corn Advisor created at the University of Arkansas under the direction of Dr. Dharmendra Saraswat, associate professor/Extension engineer, is now being adapted for cotton.
Smartphone Sales Increase
Sales of smartphones and tablets have been quickly outpacing sales of personal computers (PCs), says Dr. Saraswat. It is estimated that by the end of 2014, more than a billion smartphones and tablets combined will be sold, compared to 300 million PCs. The International Telecommunications Union predicts there will be more mobile phones than people by the end of this year.
A cell phone usage study among farmers in Iowa confirmed that younger farmers are showing a strong preference toward accessing information via tablets and/or smartphones. This trend will broaden as younger producers take on roles within farming operations, says Saraswat.
In 2013, the Congressional Research Service estimated, depending on location, Cotton Belt users lack broadband connectivity somewhere between 10 to 45 percent. Without broadband, the slow download speed of high-quality videos will probably discourage users to try to access research-based information via videos, says Saraswat.
The Design Of The App
Because researchers wanted to allow users access to downloadable information without having to be connected to the Internet, an App seemed to be the solution. The App will allow users to download publications and videos, as well as an interactive calculator, which can be used to input information that will estimate the amount of time needed to complete harvest.
The beauty of the App is its compact size (around 300 megabites) and its ability not to continue using data after information has been downloaded. Also, updates only download new information. The only caveat to that is if the user logs onto the Social News section and accesses the RSS feeds from Cotton Incorporated, Facebook and/or Twitter. Using this App requires less data usage than downloading large HD videos, adds Dr. Ed Barnes, senior director of agricultural and environmental research at Cotton Incorporated.
After the App has initially been downloaded from the Google Play Store, updates and the latest news can easily be obtained by reconnecting to the Internet. The App will be made available for iOS/Apple devices after the initial launch for Android devices.
Most of the information is in one place and contained in PDFs.
“We are going to organize them to make sense for the farmers who use them and will eventually have the capability to regionalize the information,” says Barnes. “But for this one, we’re making it applicable for the entire Cotton Belt.”
The Cotton Board, which administers Cotton Incorporated’s Research and Promotion Program, contributed information for this article.