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.
Both scouting apps can help identify other stresses in the field such as insect damage, weed problems or uneven crop maturation, Beutke notes.
"You can use these apps with yield maps, variety maps and any GPS data you’re collecting from various monitors in your equipment," he says.
To top it off, both of the apps are free of charge to use.
Kuntz says the only hitch he has encountered with ACRE Access is that you have to update the thermal image on a regular basis so it’s current. Ferrie adds that it’s important to keep copies of all the images you have of fields so you can see the crop development history and any problems that might have occurred along the way.
Head Back to School
To learn more from the Farm Journal Field Agronomists and other experts, make plans to attend one or more Corn College, Soybean College and/or Wheat College events, which will be hosted throughout 2014.
Call (877) 482-7203 or go to www.FarmJournalCornCollege.com for dates, locations and to register.
You can e-mail Rhonda Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For video tutorials on how to install and use the ACRE Access and Custom Maps crop scouting apps, visit www.FarmJournal.com/scouting_apps