Software reveals critical crop growth stages

May 12, 2011

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agronomist Greg McMaster has developed computer software that tells farmers when to spray pesticides. McMaster works at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Agricultural Systems Research Unit in Fort Collins, Colo. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

The software, called "PhenologyMMS (Modular Modeling System)," predicts the timing of plant growth stages so Central Great Plains and ranchers can know how their crop is progressing and when to apply pesticides, fertilizers and water. PhenologyMMS also helps them time other management tasks.

Working with Debbie Edmunds, a biological plant science technician at the research unit, McMaster developed this decision support tool after answering numerous calls from farmers and ranchers who wondered when their crop would be at the right stage to spray, as required by the pesticide label.

The pesticide label gives the scientific name of the growth stage, but no other hints. McMaster's program gives common names to go with the scientific names and tells growers how to identify the stage and when to expect each stage, based on weather reports and .

All farmers have to do to find the right timing is answer questions such as "What is your planting date?" and "How wet was your soil at planting time?" To answer this question, farmers choose one of these moisture level descriptions: "optimum," "medium," "dry" or "planted in dust." The last step is identifying the nearest to access to run a simplified model of crop growth for each crop chosen. The driving force of the program is 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.

The program is unique because it covers many crops, whereas most such programs cover only one crop. This program includes corn, wheat, barley, sorghum, dry beans, sunflowers and several millet varieties, and is continually being expanded.

The program can be used independently or inserted into existing crop growth models.

Explore further: Calculating crop and ethanol yields and irrigation needs in 4 easy steps

More information: The program can be downloaded at:

Related Stories

Squeezing More Crop Out of Each Drop of Water

October 9, 2009

( -- Studies in China and Colorado by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and cooperators have revealed some interesting tactics on how to irrigate with limited water, based on a crop’s critical growth ...

Summer fallow stores water in central great plains

January 12, 2011

Storing just one inch of water in an acre of soil is worth $25 to $30 per acre. That gets the attention of Central Great Plains farmers served by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers.

Benefits of planting winter canola examined

October 12, 2010

Winter canola might soon be the crop of choice for Pacific Northwest farmers, thanks to research by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and their partners. The multitasking annual plant can be used to control ...

Making Climate Forecasts More Useful to Farmers

November 9, 2009

( -- Climate forecasts are becoming more useful to farmers and ranchers, thanks to research by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and their cooperators.

Recommended for you

Closer look reveals tubule structure of endoplasmic reticulum

October 28, 2016

(—A team of researchers from the U.S. and the U.K. has used high-resolution imaging techniques to get a closer look at the endoplasmic reticulum (ET), a cellular organelle, and in so doing, has found that its structure ...

Computer model is 'crystal ball' for E. coli bacteria

October 28, 2016

It's difficult to make predictions, especially about the future, and even more so when they involve the reactions of living cells—huge numbers of genes, proteins and enzymes, embedded in complex pathways and feedback loops. ...

Ten months in the air without landing

October 27, 2016

Common swifts are known for their impressive aerial abilities, capturing food and nest material while in flight. Now, by attaching data loggers to the birds, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.