Your Ag Newsroom


Online Tools Take Guesswork Out of Farming

August 2, 2018

Determining the risk of severe fusarium head blight, also known as scab, for a particular area is as easy as going to North Dakota State University Extension’s Small Grain Disease Forecasting Model website, selecting the nearest town and the crop’s estimated growth stage, then tapping the “Get Forecast” icon.

The website ( provides forecasts for scab and other diseases such as tan spot, Stagonospora (Septoria) blotch and wheat leaf rust; maps showing the severity of the risk; weather factors influencing disease development; and ways to manage the diseases.

For Mike Dahlen, who raises wheat, durum, barley, edible beans, soybeans and corn near Northwood, N.D., a tool such as this is invaluable because it takes the guesswork out of farming.

“It’s tough for farmers to be able to have our own monitors up,” he says. “We can’t keep up with spore counts and all that stuff.”

The Small Grain Disease Forecasting Model is just one of multiple online tools and software apps that NDSU Extension has developed to help North Dakotans improve their lives and communities.

One of the tools Dustin Anderson uses is the North Dakota Corn Nitrogen Calculator ( to determine how much nitrogen to apply to his fields.

“It takes me about two minutes to do it,” says Anderson, who raises corn and soybeans near Hankinson, N.D. “It’s time well spent, in my opinion.”

He estimates that using NDSU Extension’s online agricultural tools, apps, other resources and one-on-one assistance is saving him $35,000 this year. He adds that farming is not easy and money is getting tight, so making well-informed decisions is critical.

Here are a few of Extension’s apps on agricultural topics:

“I really appreciate some of the things NDSU Extension has helped the farmers do to be more efficient,” Dahlen says.

Producers aren’t the only ones using these tools. Online calculators and apps for determining how much fertilizer and herbicides to apply are very helpful for Bob Amstrup, a crop consultant based in Bismarck, N.D. He says that instead of his clients simply taking his word for what they should do, he can show them NDSU Extension’s apps and other tools.

“All these apps are helpful, no doubt about it,” he adds.

NDSU Extension also has developed online tools to provide people with the information they need to make good decisions in other areas.

For example, earlier this year, Extension launched a program called Healthwise for Guys. A key component is a website ( with fact sheets covering several key health topics, as well as a card game and bingo game, easy-to-make recipes and links to a wide range of science-based information on health, nutrition and physical activity.

Weather is another big factor in everyday life in North Dakota, so NDSU Extension has developed apps to help people spend their heating dollars wisely, know what to do if they are stranded in a blizzard, recover after a disaster and prepare their business for a disaster.

  • Winter Survival Kit ( – This smartphone app helps stranded motorists pinpoint their geographic location, call emergency services, and notify friends and family. It also calculates how long motorists can run their vehicle’s engine to stay warm with their remaining fuel. Motorists receive alerts to turn the engine off periodically and check the vehicle’s exhaust pipe for snow buildup to keep them safe from carbon monoxide.
  • Disaster Recovery Log ( – People can use their smartphone’s camera to take photos of the damage after a flood or other disaster, then key in descriptions of the damages or use their smartphone’s voice recorder to create an audio description of the damage. The app also provides information from NDSU Extension on how to clean or deal with flood-damaged appliances, electronics, household items, papers, books, photos, gardens, landscapes, home structures and mold.
  • Small Business Disaster Plan ( – This app provides small-business owners and managers with details on what should be in a disaster plan and a step-by-step guide to creating the plan. Business owners and managers can use the app to take photos of inventory, supplies, computer equipment and other materials. The app alerts users to review the plan at a designated time.
  • NDSU Heating Fuel Consumption ( – This smartphone app compares the cost of various heating fuels. It helps business and homeowners decide which fuel is the most cost effective.

Extension apps are available in the Apple and Google Play stores.

Source: North Dakota State University