Online tool gives users broader pest perspective, aids decisions

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

Entering your data

Using drop-down menus, users choose the crop, variety, crop stage, pest and infestation rating, among other variables. Users also can customize their options to fit their crops and practices, Frantz says.

If scouts are in the field, the smartphone’s built-in GPS logs their location for future reference—a practice known as georeferencing. The tool has a security feature that allows users to share none, some or all of the information, and it also allows users to choose with whom they share.

Turechek says he hopes that growers will make public general information, such as pest populations, disease incidence, crop stage and possibly field activities, so they can take a more areawide approach to pest management.

“The idea is for scouts to enter in their actual information, so every field will have data for pest pressures,” Turechek says. “The information would be collected so quickly, it would be amazing.

“You’d get an understanding how things move across fields and between fields. Here suddenly you have the opportunity to visualize the data 50, 60 or 70 scouts collected over the course of a day in real time. You can even visualize data collected over the past week or month, when necessary.”

For example, knowing that your neighbor plans to burn down a crop after harvest, which could send pests looking for a new home, could help you make crop-protection decisions, he says.

Participants also could monitor disease situations and apply pesticides only when a threat is imminent.

Because the data is digital, it can be stored and used to determine whether there are historical hot spots that appear annually.

A long time in the works

The decision tool actually is an off-shoot from research that originally was intended to look at spatial and geographic variables affecting TYLCV outbreaks and the silverleaf whitefly that spreads the virus.

The work is being funded by a five-year U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant.

From 2006 to 2010, Turechek led a group of researchers and consultants who mapped more than 82,000 acres of tomatoes and other vegetables. At the same time, he received scouting reports for 17,000 to 20,000 of those acres.

All of the information was entered into a database with corresponding GPS coordinates. Throughout the period, he obtained weather data from three stations maintained by the National Climate Data Center and one near Immokalee that’s part of FAWN, or Florida Agricultural Weather Network.

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