Many of the newer scouting apps are user friendly and take little time to learn and put to use in your fields.
Technology enhances the crop scouting process
Bob Kuntz will tell you straight up that technology isn’t his strong suit, but that hasn’t kept this Illinois grandfather from putting it to work in his corn and soybean fields near Clinton. His most recent technology adoption is an app called ACRE Access, a program for Apple iPhone and iPad.
"It’s a pretty neat little app, and it only took me a couple of tries to get the hang of it," Kuntz explains.
Access allows you to evaluate crop conditions in your fields in real time and identify any problem areas that need attention.
According to its manufacturer, ACRE (Aerial Crop Reconnaissance Experts), the program gives you the ability to download thermal images of crop fields directly to the app via Dropbox, overlay the images on top of a Google Maps component, save and load aligned images for future use and even draw on aligned maps. ACRE currently offers an app, Crop Scouts, that Access will replace.
Farmers using Android-based technology can search for an app called Custom Maps. It offers benefits similar to ACRE Access, though it wasn’t designed for agricultural use, says Brad Beutke, who detailed how both apps work for farmers during the 2013 Corn College events.
Beutke says ease-of-use is one of the best features that the newer scouting apps offer.
"In the past, it’s been frustrating for farmers to adopt some of these programs because they might need to purchase several thousand-dollars-worth of computer equipment and invest a huge amount of time to learn a new software package," he says.
These issues are becoming less of a problem with increasingly sophisticated yet user-friendly smartphones and tablets.
"It usually takes less than 20 minutes to learn the functionality of these two apps," Beutke says. "Within minutes you can get the maps loaded in your phone and be ready to scout."
Stress areas. That was true for Kuntz, who put ACRE Access on his iPad and then scouted a corn field with his grandson, Ryan, and Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie.
"We saw on the map that there was a problem spot in one of our corn fields, and Ken told Ryan to go out in the field and look for it," Kuntz says.
"Ryan watched the screen like it was a Geiger counter and found it really quick. It was a low spot where water had settled, but we thought that was pretty cool," he says.
- December 2013