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FARM & RANCH: Cyberspace Brings Bigger, Better Tools to Producers

It seems everything is bigger and better on America’s farms today. Bigger tractors. Bigger combines. Bigger computers, if not physically, at least in capacity. Everything is getting bigger, more sophisticated and better.

This is especially true of educational information available on the World Wide Web.

MoreCrop is a good example.

This is a computer software application that helps Northwest wheat and barley growers plan and manage their crops. MoreCrop’s roots go back to 1991 when Roland F. Line, then a USDA-Agriculture Research Service scientist at Washington State University, and Ramon M. Cu, a graduate student, began developing the program. It was released on floppy discs in 1993.

An upgrade, MoreCrop 2.0, was released last year and placed on a World Wide Web page at WSU where it can be downloaded by producers anywhere.

The new version has a powerful database with information about cultivars, diseases, weather, fungicides and other things that influence crops. It contains information on 30 diseases, including high-resolution images of diseased plants that help farmers identify diseases in various stages.

The program provides management tools for each of the Northwest’s six agronomic regions.

Farmers can use the program to help determine what variety to plant, when to plant, and how to manage the crop. For instance, as the season progresses, growers can average weather data from projections of temperature and moisture to what is really happening in the field in the current year.

MoreCrop doesn’t provide financial estimates, but it provides the background data farmers need to figure fertilizer and other chemical costs, as well as to forecast yield.

Line cautions that because MoreCrop, like tractors and combines, is bigger and better, it will take a while to download. Just how much time depends on the speed of your modem and the telephone lines that connect you to the Internet. He estimates download time could easily run an hour for some farmers.

So, start the download and go do a chore or have a cup of coffee and enjoy a television program while your computer does the work.

You will find the software and a lot of information about it at

That’s the direct address. You’ll also find a link to it from the Farm Management Resources page at

I mention that because the Farm Management Resources page offers information on a variety of farm management topics and provides links to other sources of management information.

For instance, there’s a link to the University of Minnesota’s Center for Farm Financial Management. There you will find such offerings as Marketeer, a planning tool to help market your crop. Like MoreCrop, it is a sophisticated software application. Unlike MoreCrop, which is free, Marketeer costs $295.

UM also offers a variety of FINPACK applications. The university touts FINPACK as “the most comprehensive computerized farm financial planning and analysis system available.” It provides software for balance sheets, long range plans, cash flow plans, year end analysis, and historic financial and production reports, among other things.

FINPACK comes in both personal and professional versions. The professional version is for consultants, educators and ag lenders. The personal version, intended for producers, costs $395, the professional version costs $1,195 Several add-ons are offered, including a risk-rating system.

The Center for Farm Financial Management is at

WSU Cooperative Extension is rapidly expanding its Web offerings of bulletins and software programs. Only a few hundred of extension’s 2,400 publications are online today, but the number grows almost weekly.

Some are free and you have to pay for others. Currently, you can print an order form from the web site and mail it in with payment. But, by fall you should be able to order publications online and pay for them online with a credit card.

That’s just one of the ways that educational information offerings are getting bigger, better, faster, smarter.

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