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Picture This: Digital Camera Diagnostics

Posted Jul. 31, 2005

Since the Agricultural Division's regionalization process, we have identified a need for someone to work with cooperators who have a background outside of agriculture, someone who can assist them in learning the "language of agriculture." My name is David Annis, and I am the suburban agriculture specialist with the Ag Division's NF-3 consultation team. I will be working with Texas producers, primarily from Tarrant, Dallas, Denton and Collin counties, who have land in those and/or other counties. I will be the primary contact for some, and, in conjunction with the team, will be furnishing information on achieving goals, providing distance education and collaborating with state and federal agencies.

I was raised in the Mississippi River delta in Earle, Ark., (about 30 miles west of Memphis, Tenn.). After spending a little more than 10 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service as a county agent and area specialist, I worked for three years with the University of Arkansas Experiment Station in row crop production systems. I received my bachelor of science in agriculture (plant protection/pest management) from the University of Arkansas and a master of science in agriculture from Arkansas State University. My experience is in cotton, rice, soybean, wheat, corn and grain sorghum production as well as precision agriculture, entomology, plant pathology and agronomy. I am recognized by the American Society of Agronomy as a certified crop adviser.

In agriculture, there are many times when we run across something we have never seen before. How many times have we needed an answer to a problem and needed it right now? How many of you have a computer connected to the Internet and a digital camera? Now, you can take a picture (either with the camera or use a scanner for plants or insects) and e-mail it to a Noble Research Institute specialist or county Extension agent for quick identification. Normally, the earlier a problem is identified and corrected, the less cost there will be associated with it. The digital camera (and/or flatbed scanner) and the Internet are two of the greatest agriculture diagnostic tools ever invented.

To make these diagnostic tools most useful, here are some suggestions:

  • Take both a close-up picture and an overall picture of the problem to provide the best information available.
  • Take a picture of the good areas as well as the bad areas.
  • When taking a picture of a plant, include the leaf margin as well as the top and bottom of the leaf.

If you are using a flatbed scanner, make sure the resolution is high enough to make out the problem. If we must zoom in to see the picture, we don't want to be able to make out all the dots (pixels) that make up the picture. (Think of looking at a newspaper picture under a magnifying lens.)

A cooperator called the other day, and, using this method, I was able to confirm quickly an insect was not dangerous to horses before he baled bermudagrass for horse hay. E-mailing pictures is so easy that even some of our brethren in the cities have started taking pictures of their plant problems and e-mailing them to our specialists.

With the advent of digital photography, we have a way to easily store images with a description of the problem, and we can review them as needed. As I was getting into agriculture, an old county agent told me to take pictures of everything, make a file of the slides and refer to it from time to time. You now have a way of storing images with descriptions on your computer. Take a cold rainy day from time to time to review those pictures. They also make great training aids for your kids and/or employees.

I look forward to visiting with you in the NF Ag News and Views. And yes, I, too, have problems keeping charged batteries in the digital camera. I guess that's just a problem the electronic engineers will fix someday.