UACES Facebook Division of Agriculture app downloaded more than 114,000 times this year

Division of Agriculture app downloaded more than 114,000 times this year

By Meleah Perez
U of A System Division of Agriculture
June 23, 2017 

Fast Facts:

  • Division of Ag’s Hort Plants an app has spiked in downloads
  • Covers 276 common landscape plants using 931 high-quality imagies
  • App allows users to search the database using 18 criteria
  • The American Society of Horticultural Science recognized the app for “Outstanding Education Materials Award” last year

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A friendship that started between two University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture faculty members blossomed into a collaboration for a horticulture app that has been downloaded more than 114,000 times this year alone. 

Hort Plants v2 screenshot 020415 04 lr

Dharmendra Saraswat, a Purdue University associate professor for the Department of Agriculture & Biological Engineering, and Jim Robbins, a University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture extension horticulture ornamental specialist, released an IOS-based mobile device application, named Hort Plants, in 2015 to help users identify plants. 

Saraswat’s son, Ayush, who was then a college student, developed the programming while Saraswat came up with the design of the app. Robbins was responsible for the content, which included high quality images and descriptions for the plants. 

Since its creation, Hort Plants has been downloaded 134,000 times on iPhones and iPads and still counting, Saraswat said. Eighty-five percent of the downloads occurred in 2017. 

“It’s a surprise to me, too,” Saraswat said. Saraswat worked for the Division of Agriculture from April 2007 to August 2015 and now periodically checks the app downloads. He said he doesn’t know what caused the spike in downloads. 

The American Society for Horticultural Science awarded Hort Plants the Outstanding Education Materials Award in 2016. The app also received the 2016 Blue Ribbon Extension Communications award from the Southern Region American Society for Horticultural Sciences, Robbins said. 

Hort Plants includes 276 total plants (70 trees, 120 shrubs, 10 groundcovers, 11 vines, 31 annuals, 24 perennials and 10 ornamental grasses) and 18 searchable categories, Robbins said. 

The app is free to download from the iTunes store (https://tinyurl.com/y9yeanhl) and usable without Wi-Fi. 

Extension Background 

The Cooperative Extension Service has been interested in developing tools to help professional and home gardeners identify and learn more about their landscape plants, Robbins said. Years ago, web-based tools focused on hydrangeas (https://www.uaex.edu/yard-garden/resource-library/hydrangeas/ ), crape myrtles (https://www.uaex.edu/yard-garden/resource-library/crape-myrtle/ ) and general ornamental plants (https://www.uaex.edu/yard-garden/resource-library/plant-database/.)   

In 2006, Robbins converted the general plant database into a hard-copy version, called Plant Flash Cards (https://www.uaex.edu/publications/PDF/MP465.pdf). 

“He (Robbins) is a walking encyclopedia about plants,” Saraswat said. Saraswat said that when he was a member of the Extension Service, he and Robbins traveled together a lot. 

Everywhere they went, Robbins would stop to take a picture if he saw a new plant or something unique about a plant. 

“I proposed to him, ‘Would you mind sharing this great resource you have?’” Saraswat said. 

Saraswat was talented in developing smartphone apps, and the Cooperative Extension Service recognizes the rise in app use by the public to obtain information, Robbins said. 

Hort Plants was conceived as the next logical step in providing useful information to users about their ornamental plants, he said. 

 

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system. 

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. 

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By Mary Hightower
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126
mhightower@uaex.edu

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