Thursday, September 16, 2021

Drones detect insect damage

Drones keep getting smaller and smaller, while their potential applications keep getting bigger and bigger, according to an article in the Journal of Economic Entemology.

From crop-munching caterpillars to disease-transmitting mosquitoes, insects that threaten crops, ecosystems, and public health are increasingly being targeted with new pest-management strategies that deploy unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, or drones) for detection and control

“Ten years ago, there was not much happening in the space in terms of entomologists deploying UAS for pest management,” says Nathan Moses-Gonzales, chief executive officer for M3 Agriculture Technologie.

 He and Dr. Michael Brewer, professor of field crops entomology with AgriLife Research at Texas A&M University, compiled a list of recent drone applications for insect control. But in the last “the evolution of UAS technology in entomology has been fascinating to watch,” said Moses-Gonzales.

The collection in the Journal of Economic Entomology, featuring both newly-released and recently-published research, gathers examples illustrating both the progress and potential of drone technology in insect pest management settings.

 Case studies include:

  • Locating and sampling standing water for mosquito larvae and improving accuracy of insecticide applications targeting mosquito larvae and adults.
  • Applying precise amounts of pheromones via drone over cranberry beds to disrupt the mating of cranberry fruitworms (Acrobasis vaccinii) and blackheaded fireworms (Rhopobota naevana).
  • Photographing tree canopies from above via drone in winter to survey for presence of cocoons of the moth Monema flavescens and prevent defoliation in the subsequent summer.
  • Delivering and releasing predator and parasitoid insects via drone to target the European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis) and the eastern spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana).
  • Using drones to release sterile Mexican fruit flies (Anastrepha ludens) and codling moths (Cydia pomonella) to suppress wild populations of the pests, a modern improvement on the classic sterile insect technique.

Several articles in the collection also explore potential future applications for drone technology in insect pest management, including aerial spectral imagery of crops and plants to assess signs of pest damage, enhanced deployment of traps and monitoring systems to detect insects in hard-to-reach locations, and more.