Twitter and Agriculture: A Perfect Union

Angus Catchot, Extension Entomologist
By Angus Catchot, Extension Entomologist June 22, 2012 22:28

Three years ago if someone would have told me I would be blogging, I would have said they was crazy.  When we started the Mississippi Crop Situation Blog, I had to look up the definition because I did not even know what it was. Now a couple years later, not only are all the row crop specialist at Mississippi State Blogging, most of us are “Tweeting” also.

I resisted the “Twitter” thing for a while but was finally drawn in after watching my grad students tweet messages to their followers. In Extension we are always looking for new ways to reach the target audience whether it is farmers, consultants, industry, or even other academics. Twitter has proven to be one more outlet that reaches a select group of mostly younger folks or anyone that has embraced the social media craze.

I have now been successfully tweeting for a couple months and have found it to be a very useful way to keep up with Ag news all over the country and world for that matter; it’s up to you really to decide on how much information you actually want to receive.  Currently, I am following farmers from all over the United States and a few other countries that tweet regularly.  They often send pictures or even videos of their spray equipment, planters, tractors, etc. and even talk about the problems they are having and how they are correcting them. Also, there are Ag consultants from across the south that are tweeting information about emerging pest issues they are seeing daily.  I have found this to be especially useful.

So here is what Twitter is briefly (or least how I understand it).  Twitter is sort of like texting.  You can send messages up to 140 characters and anybody that chooses to “follow” you can see the message. You can also post web addresses, pictures, or even videos in your message as long as you stay in the 140 character limit. If someone likes what you sent they have the ability to “retweet” (RT) your message to all the folks that are following them and it goes on and on. In other words, your message has the potential to reach 1000’s of people very quickly.

Here is where I see the value of a social media tool like Twitter for the Ag community.  There are academic row crop specialists all over the country that are dropping short messages to their followers every day.  Things that you may find very useful but generally would never make it in a newsletter.  For example: last week I was in south MS riding with one of our agents and observed redbanded stink bugs in some soybean plots.  I snapped a picture with my phone and tweeted it out immediately.  Another example is Jason Bond and Tom Eubank have been tweeting out new counties where resistant weeds have been confirmed and Tom Allen our pathologists tweets when a new disease is found in the various crops in Mississippi. Also, anytime one of the row crop specialist writes an article on the Mississippi Crop Situation Blog, the title with a clickable link is tweeted out to anybody following our blog instantly (yes the Mississippi Crop Situation is also on Twitter).  This allows those following to get the information in real time, much sooner than the end of the week email with the latest stories.

I realize that everybody is not about to run out and sign up for Twitter now but I must say it was very easy to figure out and all you need is a smartphone, IPad, or other similar device to get started. Don’t let this social media stuff intimidate you.  It is actually very easy and the Extension Service actually has people that can help you if you have questions.  Attached is a booklet that Natalie Hummel from LSU sent me that helped me get started that is very useful and will answer nearly every question you may have about signing up. Don’t be the last one to know what’s coming your way, and as always, any of us will be glad to help just give us a call.

kglo_TwitterHandbook

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Angus Catchot, Extension Entomologist
By Angus Catchot, Extension Entomologist June 22, 2012 22:28
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