USDA Releases Apps to Maximize Productivity

Kelly MarshallGovernment, technology, USDA

USDA_logo_svgThe USDA is expecting the release of a suite of mobile phone apps that can connect producers around the world.  The apps will allow growers to share knowledge about productivity and sustainability.

The first two apps, “LandInfo” and “LandCover,” were released recently and will allow smart phone users to collect and share soil and land-cover information and access global climate data.  Jeff Herrick, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist and cooperators developed the apps as part of a project called the “Land Potential Knowledge System” (LandPKS).

“The LandPKS is a global network of open-source databases and computer simulation models that anyone with a mobile phone and a wireless or cellular data connection will be able to access,” explained Herrick, with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

LandInfo and LandCover are currently available on Android and can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. Availability on other platforms, including iPhones, is planned by the end of the year.

LandInfo’s primary objective is to make collecting soil data easier for non-soil scientists; however, the app does provide some useful feedback, including how much water the soil can store for plants to use, average monthly temperature and precipitation, and the length of the growing season based on the user’s location.

LandCover simplifies collecting data for land-cover inventories and monitoring. In fact, a yard or meter stick with five notches is all that’s needed to document tree, grass, bare ground and crop-residue cover. The app automatically generates basic indicators of these cover types on the phone. Once a connection is established, the app sends the data to servers, where it will be stored and accessible to users worldwide.

A future app (LandPotential) will use the LandInfo information together with Internet cloud-based models and additional knowledge bases to help users identify and select management systems that increase production while reducing soil erosion.

Sharing knowledge becomes specially important as we work towards meeting the needs of 2050.  To learn more you can visit