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Software Helps Farmers Determine Pesticide Spray Dates

Wheat (


The U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed software that helps farmers decide on the best days to spray pesticides on their fields. The software was developed by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service at its Fort Collins, Colorado research facility.

The software, called PhenologyMMS (Modular Modeling System), was developed by agronomist Greg McMaster and plant science technician Debbie Edmunds for farmers and ranchers in the central Great Plains. It predicts the timing of plant growth stages to help farmers and ranchers determine how their crop is progressing and when to apply pesticides, fertilizers, and water, as well as time other management tasks.

Instructions from pesticide developers may give the scientific name for a crop’s growth stage, but not much more. PhenologyMMS. on the other hand, offers common names with the scientific names and tells growers how to identify the growth stage, and when to expect each stage, based on weather reports and soil moisture.

The program covers corn, wheat, barley, sorghum, dry beans, sunflowers, and several millet varieties, and is continually being expanded. Farmers need to answer questions such as the planting date and the moisture of the soil at planting time (choices: “optimum,” “medium,” “dry,” or “planted in dust”).

The last step is to identify the nearest weather station to access weather data to run a simplified model of crop growth for each crop chosen, focusing on cumulative temperature. The program then simulates crop growth stages for the entire growing season, giving farmers a good idea of when each stage should occur.

USDA makes the program available for free (registration required), and can be downloaded from the USDA Web site.

Read more: USDA Tests Climate Change Impact on Arizona Wheat

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