Jul 10, 2020
Washington State utilizes AgroScout technology for IPM trials

{Sponsored} In early 2020, the Washington State Potato Commission selected the AgroScout platform to participate in a trial demonstrating the benefits of artificial intelligence and technology in an integrated pest management (IPM) program.

The trial, which began in May 2020 and will continue through the end of the growing season in September, includes 14 potato growers and covers 36 fields ranging from just south of Odessa to the Oregon border.

AgroScout’s participation in the trial helps to combine the efforts of both academia and industry.  Dr. Tim Waters of Washington State University (WSU) and Dr. Alan Schreiber of the Agriculture Development Group Inc. (ADG) are overseeing the trial, in conjunction with Lamb Weston®, McCain Foods, J.R. Simplot and the Washington Potato Commission.

IPM Trials and AgroScout

Integrated pest management (IPM) takes an environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that is heavily reliant on a combination of common-sense practices.

Utilizing this information, in combination with available pest control methods, potato growers are able to manage pest damage by the most economical means — with the least-possible hazard to people, property and the environment. IPM also helps growers take advantage of all the appropriate pest management options, including, but not limited to, the judicious use of pesticides.

To start, both ADG and WSU have installed the AgroScout software on computers and mobile devices of the participating growers. Scouts from both entities will then use the AgroScout platform’s autopiloting features for drones* to take images of 36 fields each week. Growers and scouts can view the flight results and findings about the presence of pests and diseases via the AgroScout web-based desktop interface or the accompanying mobile reporting app.

“AgroScout technology has great potential to reduce the cost of potato production and improve pest management of insects and disease,” Schreiber said. 

Setting Action Thresholds

Growers, scouts and agronomists can now set thresholds that consider the use of AgroScout technology as part of the IPM plan. Just a 20-minute flight that utilizes the autopiloting software can take images of tens of thousands of plants — roughly 70 times more than what a scout can cover by simply walking the fields.

The software relies on AgroScout’s proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm, that filters out plants that don’t look as healthy, to build a set of thousands of high-quality, GPS-tagged images — from the entirety of the field, all the way down to an individual leaf.

Monitoring and Identifying Pests

A drone utilizes the AgroScout platform to inspect one of 36 potato fields ranging from just south of Odessa to the Oregon border.

These short flights with the autopiloting software, combined with greatly improved coverage, lead to opportunities to scan more often throughout the season — providing much earlier detection and better overall tracking of crop health. Leaf-level images in the desktop or mobile interface, for example, can help pinpoint pests or damage on individual plants.

“If treated earlier when there’s very few lesions in the field, or when there is a small population of potato beetles … treating for (pests and diseases) is more effective than when the population (starts to get) out of control,” Waters said.

Prevention

Using the AgroScout platform in the trial has made inspecting actual plants, what could once be considered as a “scouting expedition,” more focused — resulting in better decision making and reduced pesticide use. Using this pinpointing technology, growers can focus their pesticide applications on the specific plants that need it most, precisely when they need it the most

Control

In using AgroScout’s simple app and desktop interface, WSU has equipped potato growers in the IPM trials with accurate, updated information — from the health of their crops, to real-time monitoring of pests and diseases — right at their fingertips, wherever they are.

“These drones (with AgroScout technology) will fly around and can find (insects and diseases) way sooner than we will,” Schreiber said. “This is cutting-edge technology, and I believe it has great potential to significantly change how we decide and when we decide to control insects and diseases in potatoes.”

An initial, interim report from WSU on the IPM trial was due to be released in July 2020, with the final report due in September 2020.

Founded in 2017, AgroScout is dedicated to detecting crop diseases at an early stage to improve crop yields and reduce pesticide usage.

To learn more about AgroScout, or to read more information about their autopiloting system and the IPM trials, visit www.agro-scout.com.

©2020 by AgroScout Ltd.

*Installed on an off-the-shelf drone such as the Mavic 2 Pro. The AgroScout platform does not include the drone.


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