Up to 20% of farmers are now using a smartphone and are benefiting from the many different apps available at their fingertips. Agronomy apps, business apps, machinery-based apps - all have become more prevalent, available on smartphones and now tablets. But some are more useful than others.
Crops has teamed up with three forward-thinking farmers to test some of the latest apps on the market. Each app has been scored out of 10 for useability and usefulness, and given an overall score.
Dow Agro Weedwizard
This app gives up-to-date information on the company's product range for cereals and oilseed rape, helping growers and agronomists select the best solution for specific circumstances. Available on iPhone and iPad. (Free)
The app was easy to install and set up, providing a quick reference guide, according to Mr Redman. However, some of our reviewers did find the navigation a bit "clunky", with them struggling to use the touchscreen system.
A useful, but limited, app was the general consensus from our reviewers. "The best bit is the ability to select a range of weeds and have a herbicide recommended. The downside is it only recommends Dow chemicals," explains Mr Price.
Road Trip is an app for tracking your vehicle's fuel economy, maintenance history and expenses. Available on iPhone, Android and tablet. (£2.99)
This received a mixed response with scores ranging from nine to three. Mr Redman found the app "confusing" and was unable to get on with it. "The end result would show the same as a current diesel recording spreadsheet I already use - and which shows what I want to see much more easily and quickly - so would require a double input of the data," he explains.
Mr Freestone admits it involved a lot of setting up, but loved the detail.
The "Marmite" app; although blasted by Mr Redman, it has been seen as a very useful tool on Mr Price's farm. It is the reason apps were made - it is hugely powerful and can be adapted for any number of vehicles.
"I can track servicing, insurance, RFL [tax] and fuel use, it will even do a carbon footprint if you delve a little deeper into the settings," he says.
Mr Freestone also found it a handy tool. "It's so good it's gone on the front page of my iPhone. Also has nice options for backing up and exporting data so that you can keep track in the office of the costs; it's not just limited to viewing on the phone," he says.
Yara ImageIT is a smartphone app designed to measure nitrogen uptake in the field and generate a nitrogen recommendation based on pictures taken of the crop.
Available on iPhone, iPad and Android. (£3.99)
The Yara app was easy to install and relatively easy to use, however Mr Redman notes that it was difficult to upload pictures in areas where there was a poor signal, which limited the app slightly.
Mr Price adds: "It's not easy to understand the set-up information as you take pictures, it doesn't explain why you should alter the settings or in what context you should be using them. It does have a handy spirit level for making sure the phone is held correctly, though."
It was a mixed response from our panel with BASF's GAI app being cited as offering a better alternative. However, Mr Freestone was particularly impressed. "I really like the Yara news section, especially with updates through the growing season. Nice smart links to other Yara apps and it's good to have the built-in QR reader as well," he says.
Offers all the essential market information to make informed selling decisions, including futures and Forex prices, but uniquely enables users to take action and market their grain and oilseeds direct - 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Available on iPhone, Android and tablet. (Free)
Offering services for registered users, this app provides a straightforward way of checking grain prices, with quick, clear, concise and up-to-date information. "It's easy to get a quote and the price is clear and straightforward to understand," explains Mr Price.
"For someone who wants to play the markets it's incredibly easy to use and even easier to sell. I particularly like the massive 'call now' option. Couldn't be simpler for farmers with big thumbs," notes Mr Price. Mr Freestone highlights the ability to lock into a grain price 24/7 was also handy asset.
Bayer Pest Spotter
The Pest Spotter app helps growers and agronomists identify key pests in cereals, oilseed rape, sugar beet, potatoes and vegetables. Information on each pest details identification, the symptoms it causes, its lifecycle, importance and any threshold for treatment. Available on iPhone, Android and tablet. (Free)
"Provides a handy, quick-reference guide with pictures, descriptions and important information. Also contains a good little feature for identifying an unknown pest or the ability to choose pests from a list - handy if you think you know what it is, but are unsure," says Mr Redman.
Our panel was in unison on its usefulness and doing what it says, although Mr Price did find one problem. "My only criticism would be that the database seems unfinished. The glaring example is with slugs. Under oilseed rape it lists the grey field slug, but no images and, although the images are there under cereals, there is no mention of any other types."
Bayer Weed Spotter
Based on Bayer's widely-used weed guide, this app aims to provide an easy-to-use reference guide to the major broad-leaved weeds and grassweeds in the UK, supporting weed identification of 140 species. Available on iPhone, Android and tablet. (Free)
"Navigation is easy, it loads quickly; very impressed and will use again," says Mr Price. Mr Redman was equally impressed, highlighting a feature for identifying unknown weeds via step-by-step Q&A, growth stage or visual identification.
"It does exactly as it says it does and it's an extremely comprehensive and concise encyclopedia of weeds," explains Mr Price.
Bayer's Weed Spotter app has won the crown this year, scoring solidly across the board and providing an in depth, easy-to-use tool for weed identification in the field.
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