Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Using smart phones to battle pests

Researchers at the University of Manitoba and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are developing an app to help farmers accurately identify the insects and weeds in their crops.

They aim to have the app ready for 2018 and to offer it free to farmers and crop consultants.
They already have the technology to identify 69 insect pests of canola. It will eventually have additional insect pests of other crops, 160 to 200 weeds, and several diseases in its database.

The farmer will be able to bring up the app on an iPhone or Android device in the field, choose the type of pest — i.e. “canola bugs” — and scroll through multiple, high-definition images of different characteristics — such as wing shape, or type of crop damage — to help identify the bug. 

Once the farmer confirms its identity, the app has a guide to more information about how to manage the pest, or offers the option to email extension staff or an agronomist.

The forecasting tool provides real-time data that’s generated and updated as fields are scouted by growers, agronomists and extension staff who can upload the information into the database. 

Risk maps reflect the current situation and the algorithm can incorporate climate and other data to help guide management decisions.

The crop management tool allows farmers to keep a history of pests, weeds and diseases they have had in their fields, how they dealt with them, and the outcomes, so they can make better management decisions in the future based on what worked for them.

The app will also have a notifications feature so that any new risk map, warning, research finding or relevant information is available to the farmer as it’s produced, reports the Manitoba Cooperator.

“We’re trying to make the app work for specialists and non-specialists,” says Dr. Ana Dal Molin, who is working on the project together with Dr. Barb Sharanowski at the University of Manitoba, and gave a demonstration of the app at the recent Manitoba Agronomists Conference in Winnipeg.