PRODUCERS ARE becoming more aware of the advantages of using online computer information for managing crops. But new services must be more user-friendly and offer financial rewards, says a member of a DEFRA-funded initiative.

Most of the 150 users, mainly agronomists, who have tried the Arable Decision Support Wheat Disease Manager interactive service, formerly part of DESSAC, have been impressed, says CSL’s Paul Meakin. “But we are aware that most users will need training to get the best from the program, and benefit from the information it contains,” he says.

“I would consider online programs, but some require the software to be updated every year, and the cost would put me off,” says South Yorks-based grower Steve Hodgson. “Having learned more about CropMonitor, I will try it. But that is partly because computers are also a hobby for me.”

Agrovista’s Mark Hemmant does not believe online systems can replace agronomists” advice. “They are a good way of putting research results into context and providing regional information.

“They could also be a valuable aid for large-scale, BASIS-qualified producers who handle all their own agronomy. But they will never be a substitute for field-walking.”