App will identify bugs and outbreaks in real time

Farmers and agronomists sought for testing app that will allow reporting and tracking of insect outbreaks

Researchers at the University of Manitoba and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are developing a new app that will make it easier for farmers to practise integrated pest management (IPM).

The free, user-friendly app, which should be available in 2018, incorporates three separate tools for pest identification, forecasting and crop management. The pest ID tool is currently in the most advanced phase of development and contains ID keys for 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 as well.

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.

Information in real time

The forecasting tool provides real-time data that’s generated and updated 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.

“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.

“We are trying to open the lines of communication between growers, researchers, agronomists and agencies, and make them faster and more efficient, so they should be able to track down all the issues and provide all the information required to make informed management decisions.”

The developers hope to have the app fully developed by 2018, but in the meantime are looking for agronomists or farmers willing to assist with testing the ID app in the upcoming field season. Those interested should visit the Mobile-IPM website or email [email protected].

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