Apr 18, 2024
Data collection tool expands farm management

An economical digital tool that tracks plant health that originated in the field crops sector is now available to specialty crop producers.

Its initial entry in specialty crops, My Efficient Vineyard (MyEV), is an open-access tool now used with multiple commodities to integrate data into detailed maps that can aid farm management decision-making.

Collecting and interpreting spatial data for variable crop management was the focus of an SCRI-funded project that included vineyard applications. Photos by Gary Pullano.

The free software used to collect, process and use spatial data on a farm was discussed during presentations at the Southwest Michigan Horticultural Days in February at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

“The system offers an efficient method to visualize such variables as crop nutrition data and plant growth results,” said Jennifer Russo, Extension viticulture specialist at Cornell University.

The tool uses a system to measure, model and manage vital variables in crop production. MyEV uses agricultural sensors to collect data on vineyard soils, canopy development, crop size and fruit quality. It integrates sensor data and directed field measurements into useful information for crop production managers. It then develops variable-rate field/ vineyard/orchard prescription maps to improve yield and quality, lower production costs and conserve labor and environmental resources. Users are able to build maps, obtain spatial data from farms or research plots and upload and manage data in the MyEV platform.

“What we wanted to do is take all of this data that’s out there, layer it together and then see if there is a correlation to certain spots where something is or isn’t growing well,” Russo said.

“Much of the early specialty crop work was done in vineyards, but this certainly goes across commodities and is an agricultural tool, not just a vineyard tool.” Sensors can provide an array of information.

“What we do in grapes is we are more concerned about Brix sugar levels, our yield and what we can get out of it and what the soil can provide for us,” she said. Terry Bates and his colleagues at Cornell University’s Lake Erie Research & Extension were awarded USDA funds in 2015 for the Efficient Vineyard Specialty Crop Research Initiative project.

“They studied multi-layer spatial data processing by collecting raw data from all of the sensors that are processed by a technique that allows comparison between informational layers,” Russo said. The goal is to determine how soils influence growth of grapevines and other plants. “Is fruit sugar dominated by yield or vine balance in the vineyard?,” she said. “And can it be addressed through variable rate management? “It enables us to look at several different variables and be more confident in what we are doing instead of just using one point of data,” Russo said.

She said there is a need to develop and deliver cost-effective and approachable digital agricultural tools to small- and medium-sized farms, which traditionally have lacked the tools, knowledge and experience to benefit from spatialdata-driven farm management.

In cooperation with Orbitist, Cornell University researchers have developed My Efficient Vineyard (MyEV), a web-based tool to upload, process and visualize sensor data.

With MyEV, growers can begin by creating and entering information about their farm location, ownership and preferences. They can use point-and-click tools to draw their farm blocks and add block-level information. The MyEV Tool lets researchers and growers collect data on any commodity from daily observations or sensors, and allow it to be visualized on a map. The tool collects data with a GIS (geographic information systems) location and snaps it to a normalized common grid of 3×3 meters.

“MyEV breaks the data points down into just a few easy steps,” Russo said. “Then you can identify your team collaborators and invite them to interact with your farm on their desktop or smartphone.” She said the system was originally designed for researchers, but as it developed, it became something that is useful to growers. Data collection can be done by sensors, or the growers themselves.

“So, in a sense (the grower), is a sensor,” she said. “You can go out with your cell phone and walk through your blocks and whatever makes sense to you, whatever observations you make, you can turn that into data and visualize it, spatially on your computer.” Russo used nitrogen deficiency as an example. By rating nitrogen levels from one to five throughout a field, the program will allow you to view the disparity on a computer.

“So, you may have known you had a nitrogen deficiency in one area, but you didn’t realize it was creeping into another,” she said. “This could also help with the use of inputs, or the more efficient use of inputs.”

Farm operators who are not ready to jump into new ag technology with both feet can still use the tool to easily map such issues as broken posts, gopher holes, irrigation leaks, virus symptoms and insect damage.

Growers can create their own mobile scouting tool with the MyEV Data Collector. They can then share it with their team and start mapping. MyEV is a collaboration between Bates, a Cornell AgriTech viticulturist, and Orbitist owner and software developer, Nick Gunner. The free software, viewing tutorials of how to get started and more details about its capabilities can be accessed at www.efficientvineyard.com.

Gary Pullano is a Michigan-based journalist with more than 45 years of industry experience. As a semiretired former managing editor for Great American Media Services, Pullano has covered the specialty agriculture sector for the past decade. He can be reached at [email protected].

Top photo: In cooperation with Orbitist, Cornell University researchers have developed My Efficient Vineyard (MyEV), a web-based tool to upload, process and visualize sensor data.

 

 




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