Our soils provide us with more than just food. They play a vital role in mitigating climate change and provide an essential role within a healthy ecosystem. But they have been neglected, which is why the UN has declared 2015 the International Year of Soils.

What better way for farmers to improve soil fertility than using what they already have? Manure is packed with nutrients that have numerous benefits for plants, but knowing how much to use and when can be a challenge. Now, a new mobile app is helping farmers to make the most of their muck.

Developed by the SWARM Knowledge Hub in collaboration with Rothamsted Research North Wyke, the Farm Crap App is designed to raise awareness among farmers and growers about the nutritive and economic value of organic manures and slurries.

It provides farmers with an opportunity to assess visually manure and slurry application rates and to calculate what is being provided in terms of nutrients, as well as giving an estimate of the savings that can be made. Designed for use in both organic and non-organic systems, the app aims to help solve the longstanding challenge of manure and slurry management.

FCA-logo

The free app consists of three components: the calculator, an image library and record sheets. Based on data from Defra and the industry-produced publication Think Manures, the calculator allows users to determine the amount of available nutrients – such as phosphate, nitrogen and potash – and see what the manure will provide in terms of fertiliser value. This helps farmers make decisions on how much to spread in order to meet the crop requirements.

The image library can be used as a visual reference guide to estimate the spreading rate of manure, while the record sheets keep track of field spreading. Farmers simply have to add a field, specifying the size, soil type and crop. Events can then be added to individual fields, allowing them to track each application of manure. Records can easily be transferred from the app via email.

Internet access in rural areas can often be quite unreliable, which is why, once the app has been downloaded, it does not need access to the internet or even a phone signal to be used effectively.

Dr Stephen Roderick, project manager at Duchy College Rural Business School, said:

“This is a great new development, providing farmers with a very practical and easy-to-use tool that could have real benefits and also continue our core work of converting research and development into practical advice and information for the farming community. Technology like this can make a real difference to the efficiency and overall profitability of farms.”

The Farm Crap App was also recently announced as the winner of this year’s Soil Association Innovation Award, which supports innovations that help British farmers adopt practices that improve their productivity in an environmentally responsible way.

The app is compatible with both Android and Apple devices, and can be accessed through Google Play or the iTunes store.

Featured image by Chesapeake Bay Program

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  • Dave Rawlins

    Making the most of the fertility in manures and slurries is such common sense that I am always astonished that some farmers still prefer to stick with the artificial stuff. However, there is a modern problem to worry about. The slurries from factory farms are laced with antibiotics which are routinely fed to the poor creatures incarcerated inside. Now that “growth promotion” has been prohibited this is for “disease prevention” and the agri-businessmen can trumpet that it improves animal welfare – the fact that they grow faster is purely coincidental.
    Veterinary antibiotics which reach the soil provide the ideal conditions for antimicrobial resistant bacteria to flourish and provide another route for plasmids conferring resistance to find their way into human pathogens. No-one seems particularly worried about this, least of all those spreading AD digestate on their land and calculating the financial saving on chemical fertiliser costs.