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Apps Help Farmers With Efficiency During The Drought

More and more California growers are using smartphone apps to streamline their farming operations. Capital Public Radio’s Lesley McClurg has more.  

Anne Burkholder is a soil scientist. She's standing in an alfalfa field in Davis that has an unusual large dead patch in the middle of it.

Burkholder: “Basically the alfalfa is maybe five inches tall, and it's really yellow right here where we’re walking, it’s crunchy and yellow, you can kind of even hear it.”

She pulls out her smartphone and clicks on app called SoilWeb to see what’s going on.

Burkholder: “And, I just click on get my location.”

The app tells she’s standing on soil that’s very salty and alkaline. It's scientifically called a Pescadero type. 

Burkholder: “Oh, ok that's why this area of the field doesn’t look as good.”

She walks about 100 yards forward to a bright green lush section of the field. 

Burkholder: “And, this alfalfa is just about to get harvested.”

Standing hip deep in flowering alfalfa she pulls out her phone again to check her location on the SoilWeb app. 

Burkholder: “It pops up that we are on the Yolo series. And it gives me a picture as well. It’s call a 'peyton' which is a 3-D representation of the soil going under the ground.”

Burkholder says the Yolo type soil is much better for growing crops. The app has identified why one section of the field is producing well, and another not all.

Back in the office Burkholder clicks through reams of digital data, graphs and maps to learn more about the two types of soil. 

At the iPhone app store I found nearly 900 apps related to agriculture.

Patrick Dosier is an independent agronomist and agriculture tech consultant. 

Dosier: “You know the current generation of young farmers that are going to inherit the operations going forward, all have smartphones, they all have tablets. And, they’re scanning for the new product that’s coming their way that’s going to help them be more efficient.”

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