Easily accessible weather data help producers time sprays, monitor crop conditions

02/01/2011 12:00:00 PM

Orchard Radar

Glen Koehler, associate scientist for integrated pest management at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, runs a couple of Orchard Radar sites for Maine, Rhode Island and Massachusetts that provide in-season weather data similar to Cornell’s Network for Environment and Weather Application.

The system, which was established in 1997, currently applies only to apples, “but the concept can certainly be expanded to other crops,” he says.

“Besides the scouting program, it’s one of the core features of our [integrated pest management] program in Maine,” Koehler says.

The nice thing about it is that it’s a very adaptable, off-the-shelf system, he says. “This all runs on Excel,” Koehler says, “so it’s compatible with humans.”

Wider access

At first, access to these websites was either via computer or static PDAs, where users would use web clipping software to sync their devices with a computer website and download pertinent data, says Doug Pfeiffer, professor of entomology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Smart phones and devices with wireless Internet connections have pretty much replaced static PDAs, which Pfeiffer describes as basically “just organizers.” Pfeiffer has created streamlined versions of the Virginia Tech fruit website that include Extension research and education about apples, peaches, pears, grapes and small fruit designed specifically for PDAs.

The sites have fewer graphics and are more compatible with wireless devices.

Programs are available, such as Pendragon Forms, that enable growers to input trapping data and other information into their mobile devices in the field and syncs automatically with their computer, he says.

Documents to Go and Quick Office are other software programs developed for mobile devices.

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