Online tool gives users broader pest perspective, aids decisions

08/07/2012 01:35:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

AgScouterUsers can easily input data using drop-down menus on the AgScouter screen.Tomato pest management may have gotten a bit smarter, thanks to a new mobile and Web-based decision-support tool that provides growers and scouts with a larger-scale picture of what’s occurring in the field.

The tool was originally developed to provide a status overview of tomato yellow leaf curl virus and associated whitefly infestations, says Bill Turechek, a research plant pathologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service lab in Fort Pierce.

But it’s since been expanded to include other vegetable pests and diseases. ZedX Inc. of Bellefonte, Pa., which specializes in Web-based decision-support systems for agriculture, is doing the actual system development for what’s being dubbed AgScouter.

From the original system to the mostrecent version, Turechek says it’s evolved to be much more user friendly and provide faster responses.

“It was pretty functional to begin with, but there were things that were needed improvements,” Turechek says, adding he hopes the tool will be available for growers in time for the start of this fall’s vegetable season.

Input from the field

Jupiter-based Glades Crop Care has been a cooperator on the project, providing input and testing new versions for about the past three years, says Galen Frantz, senior crop management specialist who’s based in Lehigh.

This summer, an applications manager from ZedX spent a day with Glades Crop Care to see how scouts used the tool.

“We sent him back with a list of how to improve the system, both for the smartphone and the laptop or desktop interface,” Frantz says.

Based on what he’s seen so far of the program, Frantz says he believes Glades Crop Care will benefit with the issues analysis it provides.

“This will be a really slick way to get data mapped,” he said. “In addition to mapping TYLCV and whitefly populations, we can use this possibly with other diseases, like late blight, or pests such as nematodes.”

The program, for example, will allow Glades Crop Care to georeference each observation they make. The resulting map can then be shown to the client.

“We can carry this out to the grower to show him here’s what your field looks like and here’s where your problems are,” Frantz says. “I anticipate with the phase-out of methyl bromide, there will be a lot more growers getting interested in nematode management. That’s where I see something like this being really, really useful.”

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