Are There Horticulture-related Mobile Applications for Me?

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  • 1 Associate Professor, Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences Department, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 3190 Maile Way, St. John 102, Honolulu, HI 96822

Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers are increasingly being used to supplement the use of laptops and desktop computers. Their small size makes them portable and convenient to use. These devices are providing horticulturists with new tools for their work. Mobile applications (apps) are software applications that run on smartphones and tablet computers. They can be easily downloaded to a smartphone or tablet computer. There are hundreds of thousands of apps available, covering a wide range of topics. Many apps are free, whereas others have a cost. Horticulture-related apps for research, extension, teaching, and industry are available. These apps deal with diverse topics such as food safety, geographic information systems, hydroponics, scouting for insects, turfgrass management and weeds, plant growth regulator (PGR) calculations, conservation trees (trees suitable and recommended for conservation plantings), landscape design, plant and tree identification, crop protection product information, and industry trade publications. This article gives an overview of some of the horticulture-related apps that are available. Are there horticulture-related mobile apps for me? Yes!

Abstract

Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers are increasingly being used to supplement the use of laptops and desktop computers. Their small size makes them portable and convenient to use. These devices are providing horticulturists with new tools for their work. Mobile applications (apps) are software applications that run on smartphones and tablet computers. They can be easily downloaded to a smartphone or tablet computer. There are hundreds of thousands of apps available, covering a wide range of topics. Many apps are free, whereas others have a cost. Horticulture-related apps for research, extension, teaching, and industry are available. These apps deal with diverse topics such as food safety, geographic information systems, hydroponics, scouting for insects, turfgrass management and weeds, plant growth regulator (PGR) calculations, conservation trees (trees suitable and recommended for conservation plantings), landscape design, plant and tree identification, crop protection product information, and industry trade publications. This article gives an overview of some of the horticulture-related apps that are available. Are there horticulture-related mobile apps for me? Yes!

Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers (tablets), are increasingly being used to complement the use of laptops and desktop computers. In some instances, mobile devices are replacing computers for specific tasks. Their small size makes these handheld mobile devices portable and convenient to carry and use. They are powerful, have an array of software, and their touch screen makes them easy to use.

With the rising importance of mobile devices in everyday life, we are also seeing their expanding use in agriculture and horticulture (Cunha et al., 2010; Delgado et al., 2013). The diverse range of software applications for these devices make them powerful tools for education (Hlodan, 2010), extension (Drill, 2012), and research activities (Young, 2011). The objective of this article is to give an overview of some horticulture-related apps that are available.

Mobile apps

Mobile apps (applications) are software that run on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers. There are over 868,000 apps available for download in the App Store for iOS devices (Apple, Cupertino, CA) and over 600,000 apps for Android devices (Google, Mountain View, CA), covering a gamut of topics (148Apps.biz, 2013; Koetsier, 2013). Many apps are free, whereas others have a cost associated with them. Mobile apps appear as icons along with the name of the app on the screen of a mobile device. The user taps on the icon to start the app.

Horticulture-related apps

Horticulture-related apps for research, extension, teaching, and industry are widely available. These apps deal with a myriad of subjects including food safety (Albrecht et al., 2012), geographic information systems, image enhancement, hydroponics, scouting for insects, turfgrass management and weeds, PGR calculations, creating and scanning a quick response code (Denso Wave, Kariya, Japan), conservation trees (trees suitable and recommended for conservation plantings), house plants, landscape design, plant and tree identification, agricultural retailers, crop protection product information, and industry trade publications. A sample of the extensive range of horticulture-related apps is shown in Table 1.

Table 1.

A list of a representative group of horticulture-related iOS (Apple, Cupertino, CA) and Android (Google, Mountain View, CA) apps for mobile devices. iOS is the mobile operating system for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch mobile devices.

Table 1.

There are many free horticulture-related apps. An example is PGR Mix Master [University of New Hampshire (UNH), Durham], developed by the UNH Cooperative Extension (UNH, 2013). It calculates the amount of a PGR concentrate to mix with water to obtain the desired concentration and volume for greenhouse ornamental production. The user selects from 23 different PGR formulations. The client enters the total volume of the application to be prepared in gallons and the desired PGR concentration in parts per million. The app then calculates the amount of PGR and water needed to achieve the desired volume and parts per million.

Another horticulture-related app is Soybean Diseases of SD developed by South Dakota State University (SDSU) Cooperative Extension Service and SDSU AgBio Communications, Brookings (South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, 2011). This app provides diagnostic information for soybean (Glycine max) diseases. It presents photos of disease symptoms, the causal agent, disease period, description of symptoms, impact, control measures, and when to scout for the disease.

FloraGator [University of Florida (UF), Gainesville] is a plant family identification app for students to learn botanical terms, plant morphology, and plant families (UF, 2012). The user inputs characteristics to search on such as habit/habitat, leaves/foliage, flowers, and fruit, and the app comes up with the names of matching plant families.

Finding apps

Finding apps can be done in several ways. First, the user can use the App Store to locate and download apps without tethering the mobile device to a computer. When a portable device is tethered to a computer, the App Store application is used to access the Apple Store. The search feature is used to search for a particular app or for apps on a specific subject. For an initial search, several broad search terms such as horticulture, agriculture, soil, greenhouse, pests, and irrigation can be used. Apps that meet a search criterion will be displayed. For example, a search done in Feb. 2013 on “horticulture” resulted in 26 search results for iPad (Apple) apps and 48 search results for iPhone (Apple) apps. Similarly, a search on “agriculture” yielded 186 search results for iPad apps and 298 search results for iPhone apps. When the search was repeated in May 2013, there were 28 iPad apps and 52 iPhone apps found for “horticulture.” There were 210 search results for iPad apps and 338 search results for iPhone apps for “agriculture.” A similar search in May 2013 in the Google Play Store resulted in 81 apps found for “horticulture” and 200 apps for “agriculture.” The user can quickly determine if the app is free or if there is a charge involved, read a description of the app, ratings, and reviews, and browse for additional apps by that company or other related apps. The process is similar for Android apps on the Google Play Store.

In Apple’s App Store, apps are categorized into general subjects such as books, business, finance, food and drink, health and fitness, medical, news, photo and video, productivity, reference, utilities, and weather. In the Google Play Store, apps are similarly categorized into general subjects such as books and reference, business, communication, education, finance, health and fitness, photography, productivity, and weather. This makes it easy for a user to browse and search for apps by a category of interest. The user selects a category and browses or searches for a particular app or for apps dealing with a specific subject.

A user can also locate apps by finding web pages that contain searches that others have already done showing lists of recommended horticulture-related apps. The user can read reviews about the apps and in some cases, go directly from the webpage to the App Store or the Google Play Store to download the app. For instance, a search on the term “agriculture apps” yields the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture website Apps for Agriculture that lists agricultural apps such as an entomology dictionary, GPS (global positioning system) based soil survey data, and turfgrass management (University of Kentucky, 2013). Another list is in the 24green Store website that lists horticulture apps (24green, 2012). Search results can also produce articles about horticulture-related apps (Weinstock and Harler, 2013).

One can even use apps to find apps! There are apps such as the 24green Store app that lists horticultural apps with brief descriptions and have links to the iTunes Store (Apple) for further information and downloading the app. Other apps that are useful in finding apps include AppAdvice (AppAdvice, Tarzana, CA), Appsfire (Appsfire, Paris, France), and Apps Gone Free (AppAdvice). For Android, these include AppsZoom (AppsZoom.com, Barcelona, Spain), Appsfire (Appsfire), and Appreciate (Triapodi, Herzelia Pituach, Israel).

Getting apps

Apps can be easily downloaded to a smartphone or tablet computer. Apps are downloaded from Apple’s App Store to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch (Apple) using the app called App Store or from the Google Play Store to Android devices using the app Play Store (Google). Many Apple apps will also run on the iPod Touch. After searching for horticulture-related apps, proceed to install the app, which may require entering an Apple ID password or a Google code. The app is then downloaded to the mobile device. Syncing the mobile device with a computer ensures that copies of apps are maintained on the computer.

Conclusion

This article was limited in its scope to Apple (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch) and Android products. Further, it dealt with horticulture-related apps that were free or involved a cost. There are also horticulture-related apps for other brands of smartphones and tablet computers with different operating systems such as Windows 8 (Microsoft Corp., Redmond, WA) that were not covered in this article. Are there horticulture-related mobile apps for me? Yes! There are hundreds of free and pay apps that can be downloaded to your mobile devices to help you with your research, extension, and education activities.

Literature cited

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Contributor Notes

This paper was part of the workshop “I Have an App for That: Introduction to Mobile Applications and Development in Horticulture” held on 2 Aug. 2012 at the ASHS Conference, Miami, FL, and sponsored by the Computer Applications in Horticulture (COMP) Working Group.

To whom reprint requests should be addressed. E-mail address: kentko@hawaii.edu.

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