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John Lamb, Published February 08 2013

A harvest of knowledge ready at farmers’ fingertips

FARGO – John Nowatzki is giving farmers a little extra help in the field with just a touch of their fingertips.

The North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural machine systems specialist recently released a cellphone application that helps farmers configure fuel budgets for a growing season and beyond.

The Farm Fuel Budget cellphone app

allows growers to analyze projected fuel costs

based on varieties of crop acreages, tillage systems and crop rotations.

“The idea is to be able to look into the future and say, ‘What are my fuel costs going to be and what would they be if I make some changes to my operation?’ ” Nowatzki said, adding that fuel costs are a large portion of farmers’ annual expenses.

He said a farmer who previously had 1,000 acres of corn and 500 acres of wheat and 500 acres of soybeans could compare the impact of switching to 1,500 acres of corn. Or how would a different tillage system or a change in the amount of passes affect their fuel use. Using the app, farmers would select how many acres would be used for each crop, and then the type of operations used in the field. The user also adds in the projected fuel cost per gallon.

The app then responds with an estimation on the fuel used for that farming season.

Nowatzki said he plans to soon develop a save feature to retain data instead of going in and recalculating the whole process.

“I like to respond to what the farmers suggest and go from there,” he said.

The app was developed for the Android cellphone and for now is only available from the Google Play Store. Nowatzki hopes it will soon be available for iPhones as well.

John Xu, a computer science worker who worked with Nowatzki on the app, said within its first month, 70 people downloaded the app.

Nowatzki said farmers would do most of their budgeting during wintertime, but could use the app throughout the season as there are opportunities to change practices throughout summer.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity for apps,” said Tom Scherer, an extension engineering specialist at NDSU. “Farmers could use 10 to 15 apps on a regular basis.”

“I’m finding that farmers in general are early adapters to technology and increasingly using their cellphones for making management decisions,” Nowatzki said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533