Computers on the Farm Conference

Scanners - A Useful Tool for the Farm
Greg Rotert, MU
January 6, 2003

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Greg Rotert, AgEBB Computer Programmer/Analyst, explained the uses of a flatbed scanner and its applications for farm use.

Price ranges for flatbed scanners can be as low as $65 and as high as $3000+. The average price for a home-use scanner is usually below $200. These scanners provide high color depth and average to high resolutions. The more you pay for a scanner usually reflects higher quality scanner components and a better software bundle to accompany the scanner.

Another factor to look at when purchasing a scanner is the resolution. The more popular scanners have resolutions of 1200 X 2400 dpi (dots per inch). What 1200 X 2400 dpi means is that for every linear inch, the scanner can capture 1200 dots. This is always the lower of the two numbers, also called the optical resolution. The larger of the two numbers, i.e. 2400, represents the number of "lines" the scan head captures as the head scans each inch of the photo/document. It is always best to find a scanner that balances quality, speed, driver and software bundle.

Scanners can be used for multiple tasks besides scanning in photographs. One can also use a scanner to scan a document into text or other software to edit. You can also use a scanner to make copies of important data like certified livestock registration certificates, leases, warranty certificates, birth certificates, etc. and possibly burn the files to a CD as a backup.

One can also scan in plant materials using a scanner to aid in distance diagnostics. If a farmer has a crop or horticultural pest or disease, he/she can use a scanner to obtain an image of the plant and/or pest. Most digital cameras will not allow for close enough focus or show the detail that a scanner will. Greg demonstrated how to remove the lid of his scanner and place the plant material directly on the flatbed scanner. He then suggested using a box top where the inside was painted white or even a white plastic desk organizer tray he purchased at Wal-Mart to put over the plant material, as not to smash it. This image can then be uploaded to a plant diagnostic service, i.e. MU Plant Diagnostic Clinic.

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