University-developed apps aid Arizona cotton farmers
Much of the data used in the app's Cotton Calculator comes from the UA's Arizona Meteorological Network, or AZMET. Paul Brown, a specialist in the UA Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, carefully operates and maintains AZMET to provide meteorological data to agricultural and horticultural interests across Arizona.
The goal of the CALS Communications and Technologies team was to create an application that would provide information in real time. Growers and crop consultants currently use spreadsheets to calculate the development of their crops.
"That workflow required the grower to collect crop measurements in their field by pen and paper and deliver that information to a crop consultant. Then the crop consultant would have to get to a computer, enter the measurements into a spreadsheet, print out the results and deliver them back to the grower, usually with an explanation," said Matt Rahr, program director for the CCT Programming and Web Development group. "There was too much lag time."
"By being able to do this all in real time in the field, you shorten that gap," he said.
Using the Cotton Calculator, a grower in Marana, for instance – after a few simple plant measurements – can determine through the Web app just how his or her crops are faring compared to what would be expected in the area.
If a crop is slow to grow, increased fertilizer or irrigation might be advised. If the crop is experiencing fast growth with lower than average levels of fruit retention, a plant growth regulator application might be required.
"This app will allow growers to collect data, visualize it on their phone and determine if something needs to be addressed with that crop," Andrade-Sánchez said. "Growers can make decisions based on very accurate information and very solid science."
Norton said the technology is useful to growers large and small. "We are trying to help growers become more efficient with the resources they have and improve their bottom line."
Andrade-Sánchez said Mobile Cotton is "ready for prime-time," and the college is spreading the word to growers and crop consultants about it. The app was developed through initial funding from Cotton Incorporated.
Mary Olsen, plant pathology specialist in the UA School of Plant Sciences, designed the Differentiating Diseases of Early Season Cotton Web application working with the CALS Programming and Web Development group, part of CALS Communications and Technologies.