Thursday, April 22, 2010

An IPAD Plant ID App?

Back in the days of Infoshare (i.e., 1991), one application NRCS (then Soil conservation Service) was eager to share was their Plants database. Frankly, I was dubious then, although out of respect, or cowardice, I tried not to show it.  We were in a situation where each agency was pushing its own ideas, so it was the classic logrolling situation: the end project included the top priorities of each agency, not necessarily what the farmers would find most valuable.

Anyway, over the years I've occasionally looked at it on the NRCS web site.  Even tried to use it once when I was trying to identify some weeds in the lawn.That experience convinced me the database wasn't particularly intended for such uses.  But I may be wrong.

Today in the NY Times there's an article on the new IPhone and IPad apps for birders.  My aunt and uncle were avid birders, and they had their manuals to look up birds with which they weren't familiar.  Me, I wasn't familiar with much more than robin, sparrow, crow, blue jay, blackbird, wren.  To become interested in birding I needed something easier than the Roger whats-his-face books [ed. Tory Peterson], something more like these apps.  Apparently they build upon the existing databases of Audubon and Cornell, adding all sorts of bells and whistles. They sound great, even if they aren't quite ready to identify a bird from the sound of its song.

I wonder why NRCS, or more likely some private person, couldn't create similar apps for plants? I would think much of the logic and the user interface for birds could carry over to plants: species, location, looks, etc. Of course, when you google: "plant identification" you get lots of results from different enterprises with different takes on the subject.

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