New technology for detecting pests and diseases

by Keron Bascombe, Technology4Agri

IPM Scope for identifying diseases

IPM Scope – a new technology to aid identification of plant diseases © Spectrum Technologies

Much of farm enterprise activity is spent dealing with pests and diseases which significantly lower the yield of produce. For many producers this warrants the use of pesticides of many kinds to deter a wide variety of pests and insects that can either destroy crops or act as vectors that cause disease. Excess use of pesticides can not only harm the plant and its soil (or soil medium) but it is potentially harmful to those labourers applying the chemical and in the long run to those consuming the crop.

In this regard, early detection of pests and disease is paramount when operating a medium to large scale agri enterprise, as pesticide application can be minimised if pests are found before they get out of control. There are numerous technologies, ranging from simple applications to complex innovations, that can be used to identify harmful insects and the like. Currently, some of the more high-tech tools are quite expensive, especially for farmers in developing countries. However, as demand and use increases in countries such as the United States, these tools will become more accessible worldwide.

When taking part in a visit to the PCS Nitrogen Model Farm in Trinidad, agricultural students were introduced to two technologies that have been developed for the detection of pests.

  • Stress Detection Glasses

This piece of eye wear resembles a pair of ordinary shades. However in reality it takes advantage of the human eye which is sensitive to light in the green color range. Looking through these glasses, healthy plants look black, therefore for any off green caused by plant stress from disease, pests, or water will stand out as glowing red against this black. It allows early detection of a plant health issue.

Agri-related students of the University of the West Indies examine technology to identify pests and diseases

Agri-related students of the University of the West Indies examine technology to identify pests and diseases at the PCS Nitrogen Model Farm. © Keron Bascombe

  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Scope

The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Scope works well with the aforementioned Stress Detection tool and other early detection strategies. Once a pest or disease is detected the IPM scope allows closer inspection and digital recording of the plant’s status.  It is a digital microscope that provides a magnified image of plant disease symptoms and insect infestations. As the device is USB enabled it has the ability to e-mail information for quick identification and control measures and acts as a powerful time saving tool. The data can also be archived for future use.

Each of these technologies is much more effective when working in combination with each other, or similar devices. Although some of these technologies are imported to the Caribbean, the cost attached to them drops every day as new technologies are created regularly. Once these items are sourced, their cost effectiveness in terms of the prevention of loss of yield is quite high.

In conclusion most if not all of these types of equipment are common in the United States and other developed countries. However for developing countries where their use is not as wide spread, such easy to use, low cost machinery can provide vast benefit for small producers of every crop.

Further details about these technologies:

Stress Detection Glasses http://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/programs/im/stress_detection/stresssum1.shtml

IPM Scope http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLufwvbU_bo

Keron Bascombe is a young professional in agriculture seeking a career in agricultural journalism and communications. As a budding agri-blogger, he holds great enthusiasm for social media, with a passion for agricultural topics, due to an understanding of the importance of food. He started the blog technology4agri: it highlights technologies, techniques and methods, both new and old which can be applied to agriculture for the all around development of the sector. Since its creation the blog has branched out into areas of research, agribusiness, entrepreneurship, management, science, agri policy, global topics in agriculture and most importantly youth in agriculture issues.

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