Lincoln team creates award-winning agriculture app (Video)
Wayne Ohnesorg (from left) Ruchi Agrawal and Mark Hendricks make up the team behind Aphid Speed Scout.
This spring, Croplife awarded the Aphid Speed Scout app the “Top Best Mobile App for Agriculture,” and the winners couldn’t be happier. “It’s an honor, it was really exciting when that came through and it was picked for number one,” said Wayne Ohnesorg, Extension Educator in Madison County at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. Ohnesorg came up with the idea for the app, and team members Mark Hendricks and Ruchi Agrawal developed it. The team says the free app will make scouting for soybean aphids easier and faster. It even works without an internet connection, “I just don't see a lot of internet connections in soybean fields in Nebraska, but we also have the feature where we store the data on the device, so it's kind of the best of both worlds,” Hendricks said.
Ohnesorg has always been interested in insects. His fascination started while he was working on an entomology project in 4-H. He went on to study insects for his major in college and also for his graduate degree. He studied aphids on soybean crops during his master’s degree work and said the small, sap-sucking insect robs the nutrients of the plant. The common pests, which are about 2-3 millimeters when grown, can be winged or wingless, and, either way, present a danger to farmer’s crops.
Ohnesorg, (left), is based in Norfolk, Neb., and his job as an Extension Educator is to take the research information generated by the University out to the population of Nebraska. He says aphids are the biggest insect pest of soybeans in the north central region of the U.S. Ohnesorg thought that creating this app would help farmers. “Once you get to so many infested plants it's time to treat, it means you're going to experience an economic yield loss in your soybeans if you don't treat," Ohnesorg said. "So that's the important part about it because the cost of the treatment is going to be less than the amount of yield that the farmer is going to lose.”
It took about six months to go from Ohnesorg's idea to the app being available in the App Store. The recognition that followed was a surprise for the team. “It’s really cool," Hendricks said. "It was an unexpected kind of thing. It's actually really nice to see the work that you do get appreciated by people and to have someone that you aren't soliciting to look at your stuff and say, 'Hey that's a good thing.' So that makes you feel pretty good."
Hendricks, who has been developing software at UNL for almost 20 years, said this kind of work is important for the world, “It's important for us also to get them in the hands of today's young people. You know they aren't using spreadsheets, you aren't going to carry your laptop out in the field and count aphids, but these are the tools that we have today and another thing that makes them really cool is the mobile devices have components that make them much more useful than a computer.”
Agrawal, a grad assistant at UNL, was also happy with the top app honor. “That was the first app I developed, and I was like, 'Are you telling me that was the first one I developed and that's the top one?' It's really nice. It's fun working with these guys — they bring me the ideas. I like to develop apps, and it's nice that they are getting some sort of help because of me.”
The team is currently developing an Android version of the Aphid Speed Scout app. Up next, they will release a Western Bean Cutworm in Corn Speed Scouting app.
In the video below, Ohnesorg gives a brief demo on how the app works to scout for soybean aphids.
Credits: Photos by Kate Ellingson. Video by Kate Ellingson.