7 essential arable farming apps

Whether it’s looking up the nitrogen requirements for wheat on chalk or helping with the safe use of drones, there is a constant pipeline of smartphone apps promising to make growers’ jobs easier.

We have compiled a guide of seven apps that farmers may not have yet come across in the digital world.

1. Syngenta hybrid barley calculator

Syngenta hybrid barley app

  • Free
  • iOS and Android

Syngenta’s hybrid barley calculator app allows farmers to estimate the potential extra return on investment when growing hybrid barley.

The app uses AHDB Recommended List yield data to compare Hyvido hybrid varieties with conventional types. It enables users to select an appropriate grain price and it takes the higher seed cost of hybrids into account.

The data is divided into North, East and West regions, with agronomic and disease ratings for each variety.

“Growing a vigorous-developing hybrid can bring numerous benefits, not just yield,” says Syngenta seed campaign manager Mark Bullen.

In addition to yield benefits, blackgrass suppression and the value of a yield boost in oilseed rape grown after a hybrid can also be factored in.

“As the price of seed for a conventional winter barley variety increases, a hybrid can look even more financially attractive,” adds Mr Bullen.

2. Drone Assist

  • Drone Assist appFree
  • iOS and Android

Drone Assist is the drone safety app from NATS (National Air Traffic Services), powered by Altitude Angel.

The app presents users with an interactive map of airspace as well as ground hazards to optimise safety and consider security and privacy when flying a drone.

The “fly now” feature shares your drone flight location with other app users to reduce the risk of drone-related incidents in UK airspace.

A “checklist” in the app determines if any permission is needed to fly the drone, dependent on the flight purpose and location. A simple set of rules are presented for the pilot to adhere to.

On 30 July, UK drone rules changed and it is against the law to fly above 400ft and within 1km of an airport or airfield boundary.

When flying a drone in the UK, it is the user’s responsibility to be aware of the rules in place to enhance safety. The updated Drone Code safety leaflet is now available to download from dronesafe.uk.

3. AHDB Nutrient Management Guide (RB209)

  • AHDB Nutrient Management Guide appFree
  • iOS and Android

AHDB has made it easier for farmers to access the latest Nutrient Management Guide (RB209) by launching an app, which also contains all the updates made since its publication in 2017.

The guide offers best-practice guidance on mineral fertiliser, manure and slurry applications to crops and grassland and is divided into the following seven sections for ease of updating and reflecting the latest research:

  • Principles of nutrient management and fertiliser use
  • Organic materials
  • Grass and forage crops
  • Arable crops
  • Potatoes
  • Vegetables and bulbs
  • Fruits, vines and hops

“The project demonstrates the pivotal role we play in providing growers with key tools and information to improve their productivity,” says Susannah Bolton, AHDB knowledge exchange director.

The benefit of downloading the app includes the updates and alerts, the ability to save notes as well as easier navigation and integrated multimedia content. It is practical for use in the field as it doesn’t require an internet connection once downloaded.

“Our understanding of nutrition continues to evolve year by year, with this and subsequent editions it’s great to see changes which will improve our ability to grow better crops,” says James Price, AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds board member and Oxfordshire farmer.

4. PGRO Pea & Bean Guide

  • PGRO Pea & Bean Guide appFree
  • iOS and Android

“The PGRO Pea & Bean Guide is the worthy successor to the Pulse Agronomy Guide,” says Roger Vickers,  chief executive of the Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO).

It provides the Recommended List variety guides for combining peas and field beans and the Descriptive List data for vining peas.

To aid crop management, a growth stage guide is included together with a seed rate calculator to optimise establishment.

An identification section presents users with images of common pests, diseases and deficiencies along with a written description to aid identification and potential control strategies.

The guide can also be updated regularly to provide updates, changes and alerts, such as the pea moth alert.

An additional innovative function allows users to generate crop reports by submitting images and a short report to the PGRO Plant Clinic. Each incidence is marked anonymously on a map of the UK allowing other users to be aware of crop developments around the country.

Brief notes on sources of further information for other pulses and legumes are included and will be expanded further in the future.

5. NIAB Digital ActivSmart

  • £66 (ex VAT) for an individual license (discount for additional users)
  • Online subscription
  • Best viewed on PC or tablet

NIAB Digital ActivSmart app

ActivSmart is a unique agrochemical comparison tool, which is designed to be easy to use by farmers, spray operators and advisors.

With a database of 2,300 products, ActivSmart compares up to 26 different attributes of arable products in the following categories:

  • Core product details
  • Aquatic, arthropod and non-target plant buffer zone requirements
  • Application and label information
  • Active ingredients
  • Document library

The app can be accessed from the field allowing the user to conform to pesticide regulations and aid compliance.

The featured document library includes pesticide labels and environmental information as well as notifications and updates on pesticide approvals.

This comprehensive app allows users to select the most appropriate product and avoid the expense of inappropriate pesticide purchases.

6. Hutchinsons Fieldwise Pro

Hutchinsons Fieldwise app

  • Free
  • iOS and Android

The Pro update for Fieldwise offers users market data, seed and fertiliser calculators and useful contacts.

For older/younger generation farmers, there is also a function to convert between metric and imperial figures to assist with application rates.

The “document library” feature provides users with useful agronomic documents and seed information booklets as well as the Fieldwise magazine and other published advice documents.

“Another really handy function is the ‘spraying forecast’, allowing users to check the forecast within a given area to aid planning workload,” says David Stead, farmer and agronomist.

The ability to access market reports and prices is also beneficial when forecasting workloads and planning future rotations.

The app is designed for farmers, spray operators as well as advisors to assist crop management decisions.

“The tank mix sequence is a general operator prompt for which order to put products into the sprayer tank,” adds Mr Stead.

7. Rare Arable Flowers app

Wild Flowers app

  • Free
  • iOS and Android

The Rare Arable wildflowers app helps farmers interested in flora to identify rare plant species on their land – a valuable aid for conservation.

The smartphone tool also allows users to learn more about these species and record their location.

Developed by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the aim is to build a UK-wide picture of the location and size of this important group of species.

For each of the 121 species featured, the app, which also works without an internet connection, has a photo gallery, distribution map, and information on its biology, conservation status, and most suitable conservation management options.

In addition, the app provides information about the management of arable land for the benefit of rare plant species, and on relevant management options under agri-environment schemes in various parts of the UK.

Markus Wagner, who helped to create the app, says the organisation maps and analyses distributions, identifies important sites and monitors general trends in abundance.

“This work relies strongly on the input from volunteer recorders reporting where they have found rare arable species, and we hope the app will make this easier,” says Dr Wagner.

Check the date for potato harvest interval

Syngenta potatoes appWhile this is not strictly an app, Syngenta recently launched a useful web tool that enables potato growers to check the harvest interval for a key nematicide.

After the use of Nemathorin (fosthiazate), there is a 17-week (119-day) minimum interval from application to desiccation or green-top lifting, says Syngenta potato technical manager Michael Tait.

This online Nemathorin Harvest Interval Calculator will be particularly useful in a season like 2018 when the delayed planting means there could be a risk for some crops this autumn. 

Users simply log onto the web page, key in the details for a field and the tool calculates the minimum 119-day interval from Nemathorin application to desiccation or green-top lifting. 

The calculator enables multiple fields to be checked and a record of the results to be printed.