Mobile Web Tools For Extension Outreach

Roger Schmidt, Information Technology Specialist, Nutrient and Pest Management Program, UW-Madison


Mobile internet use is changing how global and local agriculture operate and expand their businesses. This article will discuss how the University of Wisconsin Nutrient and Pest Management (NPM) program and the UW Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program are working with a ‘mobile first’ attitude to help University of Wisconsin-Extension and Wisconsin’s agricultural community benefit in this changing environment.


Gone are the days when a grower needed to turn on a radio or sit by a television at a specific time of the day to listen to an agricultural commodities or see a news report. Now, this task can be done at any time in any location using a text message or a smartphone. Coming are the days when growers and consultants will not need to shuffle stacks of paper, hand written field records, or piles of reference booklets from desktop to the pickup truck and back and forth again. These tasks will be done faster and easier with a smartphone or a tablet device either in standalone mode or connected to a cloud server directly from the field. There will be no need to “hold that thought” when a question and information need arises during any part of the day or from any location in the field. The cameras, the position sensors, and the internet connectivity of new mobile devices will make it possible for a grower to surround themselves and immediately exchange information with Extension.

Using the new technologies that the mobile internet provides, growers appear poised to make farm management less time consuming and more profitable. Farmers are using the mobile internet to connect with the university, consultants and other farmers, without being tied to their desktops. Read, chat, buy, sell, order parts, check remote machinery operation, access GPS, use location based weather data, use remote diagnostics, setup new international markets; these tasks and more can be accomplished from a mobile situation. To adapt to this new mobile internet trend, the NPM and IPM programs have set out to move forward with a mobile internet attitude of their own. The programs are making sure, however, to also maintain their traditional communication methods ranging from face-to-face meetings to printed handout materials. Some of the specific technology tools the programs are making use of include YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, and mobile-adapted websites, iPhone, iPad and Android apps, ePub format publications, and webinar virtual meeting rooms. (Product names are not an endorsement or rating). In short, the NPM and IPM programs are working with a new ‘mobile first’ attitude.

Results and Discussion

A ‘mobile first’ attitude means that each time work is done on a new or existing outreach project, the programs consider the possible mobile internet issues first, and then look at  the traditional outreach methods. This allows the programs to ensure that they are building in mobile connections from the start, saving time and money on future adaptations. The following examples help to illustrate this point.

Videos:  For the past three years, IPM and NPM have been recording videos in the field and posting them on YouTube using UWEX’s video channel. These are short educational videos that can be played back at any time in high definition. The YouTube website adapts the streaming videos to play on laptops and on mobile devices. You can see our playlists at . These videos have received thousands of views in this manner.

Websites:  Beginning this year, the IPCM Integrated Crop and Pest Management website, the Pesticide Applicator training website, and the Wisconsin Crop Manager (WCM) blog will be using a WordPress website optimized for both traditional desktop and mobile device access. In addition, all news articles will be linked in a Twitter list for additional mobile access. Locations listed in the events calendars are linked to Google maps which provide directions to mobile devices as well.

Integrated Pest and Crop Management —

Wisconsin Crop Manager website  —

Wisconsin Crop Manager on Twitter  —

Wisconsin Pesticide Applicator Training —

Mobile Apps:  NPM has developed two iPhone and iPad apps that are available in the iTunes store for free download.

The N Price calculator app allows you to compare the prices of various forms of nitrogen fertilizer products in terms of their price per pound of nitrogen. Nitrogen fertilizers such as anhydrous ammonia, urea, and urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) vary in their nitrogen content and are sold on a price per ton basis. This app converts the price of each fertilizer product from price per ton to price per pound of nitrogen — allowing for “apples to apples” comparisons. By comparing the price per pound of nitrogen from multiple fertilizer sources on the N Price Calculator’s Price List, the cheapest source of nitrogen can be identified.

The MRTN guidelines in the Corn N Rate app, are designed to assist producers in selecting an N rate that improves profitability when N and corn rates fluctuate. Maximum return to N (MRTN) is the N rate that will be most profitable for a particular N:Corn ratio. The MRTN rate is the LARGE number expressed in lbs N/acre (total to apply) including N in starter. Below that number is the range of N rates that result in profitability within $1/acre of the MRTN rate.

A third app soon to be released by the UW IPM program is the ‘IPM Toolkit” for iPhone and iPad. This app will feature a mobile connection to all the IPM YouTube videos, a listing of current WCM newsletter articles, as well as a select list of IPM related picture and publication references.

The hope is to also make these three applications available for Android version smartphones as soon as possible.

ePub publications:  Different from PDF publications, ePub formatted documents allow for dynamic changes in font size and page layout making reading on a smartphone or tablet easier. This year, NPM has begun to publish documents in both formants. A good demonstration is to look at this article in its ePub format.

Mobile Web Tools For Extension Outreach - ePub format ... (610.6 KB)

Mobile internet use is changing how global and local agriculture operate and expand their businesses. This article will discuss how the UW NPM and IPM programs are working to help the university and Wisconsin’s agricultural community benefit. ePub file format

Mobile Web Tools For Extension Outreach - PDF ... (455.1 KB)

Mobile internet use is changing how global and local agriculture operate and expand their businesses. This article will discuss how the UW NPM and IPM programs are working to help the university and Wisconsin’s agricultural community benefit. PDF file format

Also, you can view  the NPM publication, “Frost Seeding Red Clover in Winter Wheat” on the IPCM website pest management publications list in both PDF and ePub formats.

Webinars:  Lastly, IPM recently held a series of online webinar training sessions to help participant prepare for an upcoming Wisconsin CCA (Certified Crop Adviser) exam. This webinar series broadcast UWEX state specialists and their PowerPoint presentations via a live internet session. Participants were able to ask questions online, and view the recorded presentations at any later date of their choosing. Instead of paper handouts, reference materials were provided as web links to online document files. One noteworthy comment from a participant was that they were happier with online-only content because of its portability for access anywhere and everywhere the internet reached. Another advantage of the webinar format was that it allowed one of the specialists to provide a live presentation directly from a location in Canada, thus avoiding a schedule conflict.


A ‘mobile first’ attitude has saved the NPM and IPM programs time and money in providing important communication avenues allowing Wisconsin’s agricultural community and the university to work together regardless of location.

Using YouTube allows easy remote viewing and inclusion of videos in mobile apps. Videos that are not on YouTube, have no native mobile connection; they need to be converted.  There is an issue with some locations lacking access to the YouTube website. This is solved by making the videos available by CD-ROM.

Using mobile formatted websites and ePubs similarly provide a native mobile connection for proper display on smartphones and tablets. Content for the websites and for the publications only has to be entered once at the beginning, and then flows to either traditional print, PDF, or mobile formats. Also, the new mobile website has a built-in link to Twitter and Google maps allowing our posts to achieve a wider reach and contain more information with no extra work.

Using native iPhone and iPad apps provides users with an interface that is optimized beautifully for mobile device use. Distribution worldwide is handled by the iTunes marketplace, which is directly accessible from mobile devices. Android apps will be distributed by the worldwide Google marketplace.

The NPM and IPM programs will continue to evaluate a “mobile first” attitude to help keep up with the rapidly advancing mobile connection to Wisconsin’s agricultural community. The goal will be to facilitate communication at any time and in any location, using both traditional and new mobile internet methods.