Arkansas Row Crop Helpline makes timely recommendations a text message away
Growers seeking timely information on current crop, weather and other information can sign up to receive text alerts when new audio messages are posted, relevant to specific crops of interest.
Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said Arkansas Row Crop Help represents a “meeting of the minds” among agronomists, entomologists and other experts within the agricultural extension community, who often find themselves looking for the best way to disseminate time-sensitive information.
“When we start getting a lot of the same phone calls, and find ourselves explaining the same things repeatedly, that’s when we know there’s a good opportunity to help farmers with a recommendation,” Hardke said.
Through the helpline’s web page at uaex.edu/farm-ranch/crops-commercial-horticulture/reports/subscribe.php, growers can sign up for text alerts relevant to specific crops. The text messages contain a link to a recorded audio message, communicating up-to-date information for growers, wherever they connect.
“A lot of farming can be time-critical, especially as it relates to weather and soil conditions,” Hardke said. “People receive a lot of information these days—it can be hard to cut through. When you have an audio report, that you can listen to while you drive down the road, or do just about anything, that helps.”
The helpline first became active in May. Steven Hefner, a computer support analyst with the Division of Agriculture in Little Rock, developed the network infrastructure for the helpline program.
“Originally the system was designed to be web based, but since our agents do a lot of their work in the fields, we opted to create a mobile app to allow them the ability to use the system even without cell service,” Hefner said.
“As an extra bonus, we added a texting system to it so that each time a new report has been submitted subscribers would receive a text which they can use to listen to the new report,” he said.
“That was one of the biggest keys to the development of how we did this,” Hardke said. “We’re all on the move, all the time. One of the hang-ups of ‘traditional’ recording is, when we’re receiving calls, and doing all the rest of our work, we really don’t have time to travel to a central location, and do a more formalized recording.”
Hardke said that he expects the helpline to produce more messages related to field work, planting, fertilization and other aspects of farming tied to the early spring in 2019. For the remainder of the 2018 growing season, however, he said many of the messages will likely be related to pest management, as Arkansas growers work their way through to harvest.
To sign up to receive helpline recommendations for specific crops, visit uaex.edu/farm-ranch/crops-commercial-horticulture/reports/subscribe.php. There is no charge to subtribe to the helpline.
To learn about row crops in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.edu.