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Agriculture apps are a big business. With more and more farmers using tablets and smartphones while working in the fields, it’s no surprise that they are searching for apps that can help them do their jobs better.

Finding quality farming and agriculture apps can be a difficult task. This is unfortunate since there are so many quality apps out there that can make a farmer’s workload lighter.

One problem with finding quality farming apps is that it’s hard to know which agriculture apps are really useful. Thankfully, there are ways around this problem. For instance, AgWeb now has an app finder that allows users to search by category, such as markets, business, livestock, and crops.

What follows are some of the apps farmers list as their favorites. But remember, the most popular apps can change quickly – and new ones are popping up daily.

Ag PhD App Suite. This suite of apps includes a field guide, drainage calculator, planting population, a harvest loss calculator, and more.

AgWeb. This app features market news, weather, and other ag-related content. It also is interactive – allowing users to choose the specific content they are interested in.

Climate Basic. From The Climate Corporation, this app enables users to track up-to-the-minute, field-level information such as weather forecasts, soil conditions, and crop growth stage. Farmers also are able to add their own notes and field alerts.

Farm Futures. Farm Futures magazine’s app provides an overview of agriculture news and headlines, along with podcasts.

FarmLogs. Farmers can collect and log detailed information on a per-field basis with this app. Rainfall history, budgets, and inventory management are just some of the information farmers can track using FarmLogs.

Grower’s Edge. Offering a variety of functions, this app includes access to cash prices, market quotes and commentary, news, and weather.

Pioneer/Encirca View. Encirca View allows farmers to record field observations which are then georeferenced for their convenience. When used with the Encirca View website, users also are able to access aggregated data from other Encirca View users.

TractorHouse. A simple way to buy or sell a tractor. The TractorHouse app allows users to browse or list equipment by make, model, price, and location.

A drop in grain prices is making it tougher for grain farmers to pay rent on the land they lease. As a result, some overwhelmed grain farmers in the Midwest say that they are considering breaking their lease contracts.

Many rent payments come due on March 1. These payments can range anywhere from a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars, depending on the size of the farm.

For more than 10 years, grain farmers have enjoyed a boom, but that appears to be coming to end. John Deere has cut its profit forecast, blaming declining sales on the fact that farm income and grain prices are both down. Lower farm income and grain prices are further aggravated by the fact that other costs associated with farming have remained high.

There is little hope of a quick turnaround since grain prices aren’t predicted to rebound anytime soon. The U.S. dollar remains strong, leading to a decline in exports. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that net farm income could be reduced by almost a third – to $74 billion – from its peak in 2013.

Currently, there is no way to tell exactly how many farmers will breach their leases. What is known is that a great deal of farmland is leased and is therefore at risk. USDA statistics show that 40 percent of farmland in the Midwest is leased.

It is unlikely that landowners will decide to reduce rent prices. This is because much farmland is rented out by retired farmers who rely on the income to live. There also has been a rise in realty investors who are unlikely to lower rent prices since that would negatively affect their profit margins.

Landowners and renters aren’t the only one who are likely to feel the squeeze from falling grain prices. Whenever there is weakness in one area of the farm economy, consolidation occurs. This leads to weakness in other parts of the farm economy with fewer elevators, machinery dealers, and the like.

Farmers list few options for meeting rent payments. One option is turning to bank loans. Operating loans for farmers rose 37 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Agricultural Finance Databook.

In the end, farmers who plan to walk away from their leases will face resistance. Landowners have made no secret of the fact that they will want their money and will go to court to make sure that they get it.

A lot is being said lately about soil conservation farming. Soil conservation farming is a movement that supports leaving fields untilled and using soil-enhancing methods to revive degenerated land. Proponents of soil conservation farming claim that this method of farming minimizes erosion and encourages plant growth.

These proponents also claim that farmers that employ soil conservation farming methods will see an increase in profits because crops raised using this method grow and flourish even through periods of drought or flooding. While farmers have been known to be wary of new methods, soil conservation farming is gaining ground. Statistics show that over the last 10 years, roughly 35 percent of crops in the United States were raised using soil conservation methods and no-tillage acres have almost doubled since 2000.

Acres planted with cover crops is also on the rise, although the percentage of these crops is still relatively low. Cover crops – such as legumes – are rotated with cash crops and cover the soil all year, acting as green manure.

Soil conservation farming advocates claim that by leaving fields unplowed and using cover crops, which act as sinks for nitrogen and other nutrients, farmers are able to increase the percentage of organic matter in the soil. And soil with more organic matter can absorb and retain more water.

These methods of farming are growing in popularity among some farmers. These farmers list several reasons why they have employed soil conservation methods. These include the threat of government regulation over agricultural pollution, extreme weather, increasing production costs, and a shortage of labor.

But not everyone believes soil conservation farming will benefit farmers. Critics say the method is not practical for most farmers and is too expensive. They also say farmers who use this method have a difficult time controlling weeds, are limited on how early they can plant their crops, and that it is difficult to deal with the residue that is left behind when fields are not tilled.

One thing is for sure. Farmers who want to reap the benefits of soil conservation farming need to possess one important quality: patience. It can take years for soil to recover. For this reason, many farmers try it for a year or two and then give up. Farmers who have stuck with these methods say they have had to embrace trial and error as there is no exact formula that works for every crop or piece of land.

The average age of farmers in the United States has reached 58.3 years. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture. Farming has always been a dangerous occupation and older farmers are at an increased risk.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that farmers over the age of 74 are twice as likely as younger farmers to die in a farming accident. Despite this fact, there are few safety programs targeting older farmers. In fact, most safety awareness programs have to do with keeping children safe on the farm. And federal grant money is much more available to farming programs that promote child safety awareness.

Tractor rollovers are the most frequent cause of fatal accidents in older farmers. In many cases, older farmers use older equipment that doesn’t have rollover protections or safety features available in newer models. Another contributing factor to tractor accidents is that reaction times in older farmers are slower so it is harder for them to manipulate machinery controls.

Many older farmers are more prone to falls, and there is an increased risk of sprains and strains because of decreased strength and flexibility. Older farmers also are less able to climb in and out of machinery because of reduced mobility.

One risk factor that goes largely unnoticed in older farmers, but is a major concern, is depression. Fifteen percent of all people over the age of 65 suffer from depression but that number can be significantly higher in rural areas where people are more isolated. Farmers – especially older ones – can be reluctant to talk about their feelings of sadness or hopelessness but it is important that they do so.

When farmers are depressed, they can lose focus on the dangerous tasks at hand, leading to accidents. When asked, older farmers list tough economic times, the loss of a spouse, family members being uninterested in taking over the farm, and a lack of retirement savings as stress factors that can lead to depression. If depression is left unchecked, the outcome can be deadly.

In order to keep older farmers safe and productive, it is important that farmers and their families recognize the many risk factors they face. It also is important that older farmers are willing to give up some of the more dangerous farming tasks as well as be realistic when it comes to their limitations.

It’s that time of year, when rural roads begin to fill up with large equipment as the busy harvest season begins. Unfortunately, it is also the time when law enforcement officials report an increase in accidents between farm equipment and other vehicles. In order for farmers and motorists to share the road safely, it is import that they each assume responsibility for taking extra safety precautions.

Some of the worst accidents occur when vehicles are passing farm equipment. In this situation, it is important that motorists make sure that the road is wide enough to safely pass farm equipment. They also should be on the lookout for anything that would cause farm machinery to move to the center of the road. These include things like mailboxes, bridges, or road signs.

Farmers need to make sure that all their warning lights, flashers, and slow moving emblems are in working order, clean, and easily visible. Remember, warning lights and flashers do little good if they are covered in dust. Aside from keeping equipment in good working order, there are other general safety rules that farmers should adhere to in order to reduce the chances of being involved in accident.

  • Always listen for approaching cars.
  • Keep in mind that cars travel three to four time faster than tractors.
  • Do not use a cell phone or two-way radio while traveling on public roads.
  • Always slow down on curves or hills.
  • Look out for pedestrians and animals that may dart onto the road.
  • As much as possible, try to avoid traveling during periods of high traffic.

Motorists also need to do their part when traveling on public roads alongside tractors or other farm equipment by keeping the following in mind:

  • Tractors and other machinery can enter the roadway unexpectedly from a field or driveway so it is important to always keep an eye out for them.
  • Since farm machinery travels slower than other traffic, motorists should take this into account in order to avoid hitting machinery from behind.
  • Machinery operators are not always able to see motorists because equipment or loads can block their vision.
  • Remember, if you can’t see the driver, the driver cannot see you.
  • Just because machinery is traveling partly on the shoulder doesn’t mean that it can’t move quickly off that shoulder and take up more of the road.
  • Extra-wide machinery often takes up more than one lane of traffic.

Sharing the roadways can lead to frustration on the part of both farmers and motorists. However, with a little patience and a lot of caution, everyone can remain safe and arrive at their destination in one piece.