Old McDonald had a …database?

Corn field

With its $930 million acquisition of Climate Corporation last year, Monsanto agricultural data now drives decisions on one-third of U.S. farmland.

Its free app, Climate Basic, contains soil and climate data for all 30 million agricultural fields nationwide down to a 10-meter-by-10-meter resolution, according to Mother Jones.

The author used his family farm in Iowa as an example:

The app knows our fields' real-time temperature, weather, and soil moisture, and what we can expect on those metrics for the coming week. The green tractor tells me Saturday is the best day to work the fields.

The more information you put into the app, the more advice it can give you.

If I were to input data about what kinds of seeds I planted and when, it could tell me when to harvest them and how much yield to expect.

This kind of detailed information can influence the decisions farmers make at key points throughout the year, such as when to plant and harvest their crops.

For each decision, there's an opportunity to save money on "inputs": water, fuel, seeds, custom chemical treatments, etc. Those savings can come with a parallel environmental benefit (less pollution from fertilizer and insecticides). These decisions can also help farmers make money by squeezing more yield from the same acreage.

The impact of this growing database may be even greater outside of the U.S. Monsanto is experimenting with a way to implement the program in Africa and Asia through text messages.

Beyond weather predictions, mobile data services could help African farmers identify pests and diseases—text in a photo of a mysterious bug, and get advice on how to get rid of it.

In India, Monsanto said 3 million small-scale farmers have already signed up to receive text-message updates.

Reach Eric Holmberg at 412-315-0266 or at eholmberg@publicsource.org. Follow him on Twitter @holmberges.