Finding Smarter Ways to Identify Crop Threats

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“We have seen major advances in digital tools for forecasting pests, diseases and weeds in crops over recent years and further technological developments promise a new era of more sophisticated tools is on the way,” says Dr Francesca Salinari, R&D Projects Coordinator for Agrii.

Advances in our ability to capture and analyse vast amounts of data have dramatically enhanced the potential for so-called decision support tools, offering farmers and agronomists ways to better target spray timings and product choice.

Drone or tractor-mounted hyperspectral cameras to detect latent disease before symptoms are visible, diagnostic tools, in-field weather recording and web-based apps for predicting pests risk are just some examples being developed. Agrii is involved with several projects, as will be discussed during the CropTec crop protection seminar.

No matter how accurate any computer model is though, none will ever replace the experience and knowledge farmers and agronomists have. Indeed, decision support tools are not designed to replace this human element, but to support it by reducing the uncertainty involved in any decision-making process and provide a better insight into what’s happening in crops.

Models can provide real-time warnings of pest or disease pressure, allowing farmers to inspect crops or specific areas of fields and determine whether curative or protectant action is required.

Furthermore, with the increasing focus on integrated pest and disease management (IPM), decision support tools perform a key role by providing better insights for informed and risk-based decisions, thus providing the evidence to justify the rationale behind any remedial action and compliance with IPM principles.

To be effective tools must be location-specific, timely, easy to use and accessible. Most importantly these tools need to deliver value and provide benefits, such as optimisation of input and crop performance. There are still some challenges to meeting these goals, especially when it comes to timeliness and data connectivity in rural areas. Also, extracting value and insight from the vast amount of different data that can now be captured on-farm still remains a major challenge.

Technology and analytics capabilities are constantly evolving though, so I’m confident many hurdles will be overcome and the next five years will see exciting new tools available for farmers and agronomists.”

Francesca Salinari will be speaking in the Crop Protection Seminar at CropTec 2017. More information about the event can be found at www.croptecshow.com

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