GrassSnap App, Mobile app monitors pastures with photos
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) has developed a mobile app, named GrassSnap, to be used as a monitoring tool to take photos of pastures to better track range conditions. The app also helps producers reference any positive or negative effects of their management decisions and changes they have made to their pastures from year-to-year.
The app will utilize smart devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and will be made available the first week of June for both Android and Apple devices through the Google Play Store and iTunes.
“We found it was hard and kind of confusing to monitor grasslands with datasheets, cameras and GPS units, so we developed an app to help make it a whole lot easier when monitoring these grasslands in the future,” said Bethany Johnston, UNL Extension educator.
Johnston spoke about GrassSnap at the Rangeland Drought Impact Webinar hosted by the National Drought Mitigation Center at UNL on May 22.
Johnston mentioned that for pasture photos to be effective and useful, they need to have reference in the photos and be repeatable.
To show reference in a photo, Johnston noted, the height of the grass in pastures needs to be depicted to better determine pasture quality from consecutive years.
Johnston stated she uses a five-foot perspective pole that alters from being black and white every foot in her monitoring photos to show the reference height of the pasture grass.
For repeatability, Johnston recommends standing in the same spot every year when taking pasture photographs to convey the best set of monitoring pictures of how a pasture is doing over the course of several years.
“It’s very important to have a permanent field marker in pastures to be able to identify where to stand when taking pasture photographs,” said Johnston. “We used a piece of PVC pipe and drove it in the ground about six inches, so we were able to find that same sight every year and be able to get a consistent picture.”
Other data Johnston mentioned to collect while taking pasture photos are precipitation levels, a pasture’s stocking rate, grazing records and any other impactful events that have occurred to the pasture that could potentially impact its productivity.
Johnston commented this data could be recorded in the comments section on the GrassSnap app.
Problem areas in a pasture can also be recorded using GrassSnap, so their progress can be evaluated and monitored for any improvement from year-to-year.
“It helps to remember what a pasture looks like,” said Johnston. “We can really see the changes in a pasture over the course of a couple of years, and with these pictures, it gives us an idea if we are moving in the right direction or not.”
GrassSnap takes two types of pictures capable of capturing the landscape of a field and close-up pictures of what the ground of the pastures look like.
The overview pasture picture is called a photo point because the photo shows one point on the horizon. This point on the horizon should be a constant point for future photos to line up scenery of the pasture to maintain consistent monitoring, stated Johnston.
“In GrassSnap, we have an overlay feature that works very well to help achieve the same picture every year,” said Johnston. “When the overlay option is selected, the previous year’s photo will appear, and the person taking the new picture can line up the previous year’s photo background with the current year’s background.”
She continued, “This overlay option will keep the range monitoring pictures consistent and very repeatable.”
GrassSnap will also take up to five photo plot pictures, which indicate certain representative or problem areas of a pasture.
These photos are taken directly above the grass and are used to determine what’s occurring on the ground in a pasture.
“When looking out across a pasture, it can look green, but when looking down it might be a different picture,” described Johnston.
“Some other features of GrassSnap include that it will automatically photo stamp all of the pictures it takes, so when they are pulled up on a computer or printed off, the pictures will have the pasture name on them, the date the picture was taken, the GPS location and the direction the person was looking when the photo was taken,” explained Johnston.
“The app will also store all of the pictures taken, and all of this information can easily be transferred and downloaded to a computer to be viewed on a larger screen,” added Johnston.
When in cell service, GrassSnap will simultaneously input GPS coordinates of where the photo was taken. However, GrassSnap runs off of decimal degrees for its GPS, and Johnston advised producers make sure the units are right when the GPS is in use.
“Once the information for a pasture has been collected, there is an option to update existing pastures the app has already recorded,” commented Johnston.