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A guava grower from Hyderabad shares his experience with precision plant protection

We met Syed Abdulla in 2021 when he just joined our platform. Syed is a guava grower from Hyderabad, Telangana, India. He represents a promising phenomenon of young professionals who bring technology to the farm and shape the future of agriculture. We invited him to share his experience, challenges, and his hopes for the future.

Hello Syed, please tell us a bit about yourself, and your orchard history. Why did you choose to grow guava?

I am a medical student, my father was a sales manager, and my brother is a computer science graduate. 

My grandfather used to grow sugarcane then shifted to rice, my father continued to grow rice for several years. These were not very profitable, then we gave the land for lease for a few years, they grew cotton in that period, then in 2018 we planted guava, coconut, and lemon. 

The choice of planting guava was not just about earning money but providing products that would meet the nutritional needs of the body, guava contains vitamin C, iron, and calcium. These minerals and vitamins are part of the majority of medical supplements. We chose Taiwan guava because it has a good shelf life. On a tree as well as post-harvest. 

How many people work with you? What is their responsibility?

My teammates are my father and brother, they monitor field works and see that irrigation and fertigation are provided on time.l live in the city to pursue my studies, I monitor the farm through satellite scans according to the scans I plan my visit to the orchard, I come and inspect the trees and I also deal with fertigation and its plan. 

There are 4 resident workers who deal with the daily inspection of the orchard, keeping it clean and spraying insecticides and providing irrigation and fertigation, and harvesting. 

There is an additional team of 10 workers who come to work when the workload increases. During harvesting for example.

Tell us about the disease and pest challenges? How did you manage the plant protection in your orchard in the past?

In guava the major destructive pest is the fruit fly, which can cause 100% fruit damage, fruit borers can also cause significant damage if spraying is not applied during the fruit set. Mealybug is a minor pest, it can be easily controlled if the fruit is not bagged, but when bagging is done, if the bag is not tightened to twig properly, it can cause severe infestations if the periodic sprays are not done, the major problem with the mealybug is its hiding capability and the waxy layer on the adults which gives them protection. Other foliar pests can be easily controlled by contact and systematic insecticide until they are susceptible to available insecticides. Then comes fungal diseases, it is very challenging to control fungi up to 100%, and this causes the development of fungal diseases that damage fruits during heavy rains. During such periods the fungi spread rapidly to other fruits. 

Nematodes can cause severe retardation of growth in the summer. 

After getting versed with all pests and diseases if one can bring fruit damage down to 5% to 10% then that is a great achievement. In the beginning, if you start managing without taking advice from experts and experienced farmers then you will face huge losses, that’s the reason I want to share my journey to help farmers avoid the mistakes which I did. 

In the past, we experienced massive rains during the harvest period which led to huge fruit fly infestation and 100% loss.

In another season,  a representative of a pesticide company made weekly visits to the orchard and suggested solutions for problems. He promised that he will give results without bagging, but we didn’t want to take the risk, so we bagged 75% of the fruits and left 25% unbagged, but after 50% of harvest the first spell of rain caused fruit fly infestation on unbagged fruits and the second spell of rainfall lasting for 15 days causing the development of fungus in bagged fruits leading to 50% damage.

As a biology student, I am curious about pests, plants, and diseases and I gained most of my knowledge regarding them till the end of the third season. We managed to maintain plant protection based on this knowledge and then I came across Agrio. 

How did you come across Agrio?

One day I thought I am not the only one who is doing agriculture. There are lakhs of people around the world who are dealing with these challenges, so I started searching for platforms where I will get access to the best agriculture experts. I was searching for platforms in the play store, and this is how I came across Agrio. 

What is your perspective on digital solutions in agriculture? What do you wish to see in the future?

Digital solutions can make a huge positive impact in the agriculture sector but can’t eliminate physical inspection, they make things easier, less time-consuming, and can make agriculture a part-time business and a more profitable business. 

Regarding Agrio, I want to see the expansion of the pest modeling. I am using the daily briefing feature which keeps updating the stage of pest and status of pest infestation so that spraying can be done during a period during which the pest is susceptible to pesticides. I wish to have the daily briefing feature for all pests that I deal with. 

Agrio should conduct research on new methods of pest controls and communicate it with the users in the form of tutorials. 

We live in an era of technological progress. Continuous research helps you find new methods of controlling pests that save time and money, reduce insecticide exposure to fruits and improve results. 

How the satellite scanning changes the way you understand the orchard situation? 

Satellite scans decreased the load of inspection and they help in eliminating many differential diagnoses and narrowing down suspected causes, they help in understanding which part of the orchard is growing during a specific period. They indicate nutrient deficiency by showing homogenous fall when fertigation is delayed. They allow to demarcate the hotspot zones and monitor them periodically. They also allow the detection of the origin of pest infestation. 

I think that a satellite scan is a non-specific modality, a satellite scan followed by inspection helps to make out what the problem is. I hope to see the progress that can make satellite scans more specific in the future. 

But in spite of its limitations it helps a lot in understanding the orchard situation, it helps farmers to divide orchards into pest zones and non-pest zones and make a spray in pest zones, and it helps to detect differential growth of trees in different areas and detect defects in areas with low growth. 

Can you describe a particular case in which Agrio helped you detect a pest or a disease? 

Nematode infestation was detected on a few plants through satellite scan that showed a decline in that area, then photos of plants in that area were uploaded with the smartphone camera by us, then inspection of the roots was suggested, nodules were detected on roots, and nematode infestation was identified. 

The satellite scan help to localize areas where mealybug is present on leaves of plants based on differential decline shown by infested area, so that geotagged photos can be taken in that area and the pest zone can be demarcated then spraying can be done in that area, this reduces the amount of exposure of plants to pesticides as spraying will be done only in an infested area, this also reduces the cost of spraying. 

Does the app help you with coordinating the operations on the farm? Please describe how it works.

The app has excellent features that can help teammates to coordinate and get work done perfectly. It has a feature of taking geotagged photos, an inspector can take photos in places of infestation so that teammates can make sure treatment is done there and can monitor its progress. It has a chat where daily work can be communicated. This helps in coordinating irrespective of different working hours. The feature of the intervention calendar helps in maintaining records of it and the information is accessible to all teammates. Sometimes you get excellent results but you forget the things that were done and the pesticides that were used. The satellite scans and intervention helps to recall and review the results of interventions. 

What is the dynamic in the community of growers in your region? What is the level of interest in precision agriculture solutions? Do you see how area-wide integrated pest management can be applied with the aid of technology to the benefit of the whole community?

Most of the guava growers here grow native variety which has a short shelf life on trees as well as post-harvest. Bagging is not economical so they frequently suffer from fruit fly losses. Most of the Taiwan guava growers are 500 km away from here, they are also bagging fruits to produce first quality fruit as suggested by local experts. In other crops, the majority of farmers are uneducated and depend on plant protection advice from either pesticide shop owners or the horticulture department. 

Area-wide management can help to detect pests at an early stage when the population is low, this reduces the spraying of pesticides in adjacent fields, and many of the infestations can be prevented.  An individual farmer will suffer many challenges, but communication and cooperation between farmers of an area can make huge changes and provide profitable crops. 

Who are your produce buyers? Tell us about your marketing challenges. What do you wish for in the future?

Brokers in the main market of Hyderabad buy our produce, today due to the pandemic many countries are in debt, and people’s economic situation is worsening. Due to this buying fruits became secondary to low class and lower middle class, which led to a decrease in demand and a fall in prices. 

Due to urbanization many big markets of the city are getting shifted to the outskirts, and there is an increase in the travel costs of the city vendors to the market, so many workers are finding it difficult to carry this profession, these are leading to a decrease in consumption and further fall of prices. 

Regional markets should be established within the city according to the consumption and supply should be made accordingly to decrease cost price to vendors. Minimum rates should be fixed to the quality categories of fruits so that farmers will not be losing in any season. Farmers should also be able to sell their produce on online platforms where they can get fair prices. But to achieve that they should be producing them in huge quantities. 

Anything else that you would like to add?

For many years farmers have been at a great loss due to unseasonal rains and lack of evidence-based suggestions by local agriculture experts, using technology and proper planning should bring good results in the future. Failure is an opportunity to begin again more Intelligently.

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A guide to protecting cannabis plants with the help of beneficial insects

Beneficial insects are a natural and safe form of pest control. They are a great alternative to pesticides and they are not harmful to the environment. The use of beneficial insects is becoming more popular in the face of pesticide resistance and growing public concern about the risks associated with chemical pest control.

A number of factors must be considered when selecting beneficial insects for release into a particular environment: the type or species of insect; their life cycle; how fast they multiply in numbers; whether they are native to that area or not; where they will live in the environment; what they will feed on and more.

The use of beneficial insects is becoming more common in the cannabis industry as it has been proven to be a sustainable way to decrease the use of pesticides while still maintaining the desired level of quality for the product.

In the following, we review the common insect pests that affect cannabis and the beneficial insects that can come to the rescue.

Aphids

Aphids are small polyphagous (0.5-5 mm), sap-sucking insects that come in various colors and shapes. Most aphids don’t have wings, but the ones that do range in colors from black, green, pink, yellow, etc. Aphids are one of the most widely distributed pests in the world.

Feeding can cause stunting and plant/leaf deformities such as curling, while honeydew secretions are a “fertile ground” and a major contributor to the development of sooty mold fungi that in turn can lead to a decrease in photosynthesis.

Aphids are a major vector for dozens of viruses. That alone is enough to put aphids at the top of the most globally, economically hazardous list for crops.

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Aphids on cannabis leaf

Predators

aphidius colemani

This parasitic wasp is part of the family Braconidae and feeds on several species of aphids, including the peach aphid and the pumpkin aphid. The adult wasp is thin with black, brown, and yellow colors in its different body parts.

It is sensitive to high temperatures and its optimum temperature range happens to be 20-30 degrees Celsius. It lays a single egg inside the aphid’s body. The hatched larva feeds on the internal tissues of the aphid. The aphid becomes a “mummy” with a swollen, brown appearance.

Mealybugs

Considered to be soft scale insects, mealybugs derived their name from their appearance. Usually, mealybugs are covered with a sticky wax floury or cornmeal-like whitish powder. Some species reproduce sexually, while others are parthenogenic. Mealybugs may be oviparous, viviparous, or ovoviviparous. Their eggs are usually laid in loose masses of cottony wax ovisacs. The flowering and fruiting phases of plants help support a larger mealybug population.

They feed on the phloem by sucking sap from plants. Symptoms appear as small white patches on stems and fruits, followed by the formation of honeydew and the development of sooty mold near infected areas. Mealybugs are known for their ability to transmit plant viruses and can cause heavy losses.

Predators

Anagyrus pseudococci

A parasite that lays a single egg into the mealybug body. The larva that hatches from the egg feeds on the mealybug body and mummified it.

Cryptolaemus montrouzieri

Coccinellid predator that reaches 4 mm long in its adult form; The insect color is dark brown with an orange abdomen. Young larvae prefer mealybugs eggs and larvae, while adults feed on all stages of the pest without preference.

The optimal conditions for its development are 26 Celsius and 60% humidity.

Red spider mites

Small arthropods are classified as Arachnida and members of the Tetranychidae family, along with hundreds of different species. They are distributed worldwide and considered a persistent concern for farmers in warm, arid, and dry weather regions.

When weather conditions are right, a female is able to lay up to seven eggs a day and will do so on the underside of leaves. Adults feed upon plant tissues leaving yellowish nourishing marks. 

Red mite presence in fields could go unnoticed until infestation reaches a critical point in which damage to plants is clearly visible. 

Predators

Amblyseius swirskii

This particular predatory mite belongs to the Phytoseiidae family. It’s known as the swirskii mite and is a general carnivorous critter that consumes pollen from flowers, as well as Western flower thrips, whiteflies, and red mites.

The mite color can be white, white-yellow, and even light orange. Its color depends on the color of its prey.

The optimum for its development is 25-28 degrees Celsius; The duration of development from egg to adult at a temperature of 26 degrees Celsius lasts about 5-6 days.

Phytoseinulus perssimilis

The Presimilis mite, belonging to the Phytoseiidae family of predators, preys on other mites and small insects. These predatory mites can act as a natural way to keep certain pests in check and are especially effective due to their specificity.

Females are pear-shaped. They have a red-orange hue and with their long front legs and rapid movement can capture red mites with ease. The pest feeds on red mites in all growth stages, with a preference for eggs.

The optimal conditions for their development are 21-28 degrees Celsius and a humidity of 60%. In optimal conditions, the pest completes its life cycle within a week.

Leafminers

Leafminers are insects belonging to different orders: sawflies belong to hymenoptora, flies belong to the order of diptera, and moths that belong to the order lepidoptera. Together, they form a large group of plant pests that are important to cultural crops around the world.

Feeding patterns are important in helping identify the genus and the species, and it is quite characteristic. Leafminers are year-long pests that favor warm environments.

The first signs of infestation are tiny yellow dots upon leaves’ upper surfaces. The spots depict where the female laid her eggs. A week after, maggots begin eating their way inside the leaf tissue thus creating those complex tunnels we recognize so easily. The tunnel provides sufficient living conditions for the larvae. In the following 10 days, the tunnel gets wider and longer. Eventually, maggots pop out and fall to the ground where they’ll complete their metamorphosis and turn into a fly after another 10 days.

Its larvae stage is the one responsible for the actual damage. In a large enough population, it can cause a significant drop in yields due to sabotaging photosynthesis.

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Leafminer damages on cannabis leaf

Predators

Diglyphus isaea

The parasitic wasp Diglyphus belongs to the family Eulophidae. a natural enemy of dipteran leafminers and a successful commercially available biological product against leafminers.

Diglyphus acts as an external parasite and lays eggs outside the host’s body. The adult is small, and is black in color with a metallic green sheen, protruding from its surface.

The female injects the leafminer maggot with paralyzing fluid before laying eggs and depositing them close to its body. The maggot stays paralyzed for two weeks and the larvae that hatch from the egg (after two days) feed on the pest. The adult female is nourished by the body fluids of the pest maggots as well.

At an optimal temperature of 20-25 degrees Celsius the graduates are able to live up to 30 days.

Whiteflies

Bemisia tabaci, also known as whitefly, is a multi-host with considerable differences that exist in appearance between adult and nymph stages. Females can lay dozens of eggs, usually on the underside of leaves. Nymphs feed by stabbing into the plant with their mouth parts, sucking up sap from the phloem, and excreting honeydew (a sugar-rich substrate that promotes the growth of sooty mold.) The adults are white and capable of flying, hence the name.

Damage to hosts is caused directly by feeding and indirectly by honeydew. However, their ability to spread viruses has the greatest economic impact. Whitefly vector plant viruses like Begomoviruses, which is a group of plant viruses such as TYLCV in tomatoes and CYSDV in cucurbits. Whiteflies transmit Begomoviruses to host plants.

Predators

Macrolophus pygmaeus

This light green insect is a predator of small arthropods. It is considered an effective predator of whiteflies and tuta absoluta but also feeds on eggs of the whiteflies, thrips, mites, and aphids.

Amblyseius swirskii

Refer to the sections above.

Western Flower Thrips

Western flower thrips are small, polyphagous insects (adults are 1.2 mm in length). They are a major pest in the world of agriculture with several hundred different host plants. They can usually be found on the upper parts of plants, especially inside the flowers, where they feed on pollen. Western flower thrips undergo partial metamorphosis, developing through several distinct stages, including egg, larva, pupa and adult-which can fly only weekly.

They can cause damage to crops directly as a result of feeding or laying eggs in the plant’s tissue and indirect damage from the role it plays as a vector of viruses.

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Thrips damages on cannabis leaves

Predators

Orius laevigatus

The carnivorous flea Orius is a relatively small insect that belongs to the family Anthocoridae.

It feeds mainly on insects, but also on plants. When feeding on plants, it feeds on the sap and pollen, without harming the plant. Pests such as western flower thrips, whiteflies, and red mites are its source of prey. At an optimal temperature of 25 Celcius, the flea completes its development from egg to adult within 16-18 days and can live up to a month. Luckily, at all stages of development, it can devour pests.

Macrolophus pygmaeus

Refer to the sections above.

Further considerations

When the infestation is getting out of control chemical insecticides might be required. On such occasions, there is a need to select pesticides that are not harmful to the beneficial insects. The Agrio app can help you to choose the right product.

Summary

Integrated pest management is the approach of combining methods that work better together than separately. It allows diseases and pests to be controlled by managing the ecosystem, which results in long-term pest control that is less risky to farmers and the environment. IPM is an environmentally sound approach that has been shown to reduce pesticide use by 80% or more compared with conventional pest control approaches. We look forward to seeing you leveraging this information for intelligent and effective pest management in your growing areas. 

In the meantime, as always, we wish you an abundant harvest.

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Satellites with red-edge sensors will help you detect plant stress early

In the effort to grow better food farmers and crop advisors want to have a better understanding of the condition of their crops in real-time.

Remote sensing is a new revolutionary approach that can help to accomplish that. It is an affordable way to identify plant diseases and other problems early on, which can then be treated before the problem spreads and damages the entire crop. Remote sensing leads to more efficient food production, which in turn helps to increase crop yield and decrease hunger worldwide.

It is well known by now that the visible spectrum can be limiting when it comes to the detection of plant stress. When you scout your plants you might not be aware of the symptoms that are already developing. These symptoms might be presented in the field but not yet visible as symptoms that are visible to the naked eye. Hyperspectral imaging can solve this problem, as it is shown to have promise in the early detection of plant stress. It was demonstrated that the symptoms of stressed plants show in some spectral regions before they can be seen in the visible spectrum.

One of the interesting spectral regions is the red-edge. this is the region that shows a large sharp rise in the plant absorption of light. This region is characterized by electric waves with wavelengths between 700 to 800 nm. The sharp incline in the graph is due to the contrast between the strong absorption of chlorophyll and the otherwise reflective leaf. This spectral region is proving itself as the most sensitive to disease symptoms.

This led to the increasing number of satellites that were sent to space that carry sensors that are sensitive to these wavelengths. Moreover, there is an increasing amount of research effort that deals with the classification of healthy and infested plants based on spectral signatures in the red edge spectral region. In recent years there is an increasing amount of evidence that shows that the red-edge shows signs of a problem before the condition is detectable with traditional vegetative indices or the naked eye.

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Typical plant light reflectance

Satellites with red-edge sensors

Some of the satellites that carry red-edge sensitive sensors are the Sentinel-2 and PlantScope constellations. Sentinel-2 has spectral channels with different spatial resolutions, including three 20 m resolution red-edge bands at 705 nm, 740 nm, and 783 nm. Planetscope satellites provide 8-band including 3 m resolution with red-edge sensitivity at 733 – 748 nm.

What makes the red-edge region interesting for analysis?

Studies show that the ratio of reflectances at 750 nm to that near 700 nm is directly proportional to the chlorophyll concentration in the leaves. Chlorophyll plays a crucial role in the photosynthetic processes such as light-harvesting, and thus the content of chlorophyll is a potential indicator of a range of stresses. Moreover, it was shown that red-edge absorption analysis can indicate a problem before the actual reduction in the chlorophyll can be observed. The chlorophyll functioning changes can be detected by the red-edge analysis early on. This precedes the actual losses in leaf chlorophyll concentrations and therefore monitoring such changes can act as an early indicator for the development of biotic and abiotic stress.

Another advantage of analyzing this spectral region is the invariance of the results to changing environmental conditions. The absorption and reflectance of the waves are less sensitive to soil background and atmospheric effects.

Some examples of diseases that their monitoring was studied with this approach are late blight in potato and rice panicle blast.

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Healthy vs stressed plant reflection in the red-edge spectral region

Leveraging artificial intelligence to detect anomalies in satellite imagery

After discussing the benefits that can result from monitoring the red-edge reflectance we need to deal with the question of the practicality of this approach. One of the challenges in leveraging spectral analysis in stress detection is to identify the precise patterns in the satellite scans that indicate that the plants are under stress. The use of artificial intelligence in agriculture has been on the rise due to the recent advancements in technology and contributes to the efforts to overcome these challenges. Anomalies are detected using artificial intelligence by making decisions that are based on patterns that were learned from large training datasets.

The progress in the development of early detection tools can become faster once a large volume of high-quality data can be collected in an affordable way. To achieve that we took the crowdsourcing approach and built a tool that allows growers to identify plant pathology based on smartphone captured images. Growers are directly benefiting from this service while helping to train algorithms for early detection, a capability that can be more beneficial for them in the long term. The geotagged images are used as ground truth and help us to train the algorithms to identify the problems directly from the satellite scan. The computer is presented with satellites scans in which it is known which of the field regions are diseased. We make fast progress as we are able to collect a large volume of high-quality data.

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Monitor fields with the Agrio smartphone application

Such data allow us to learn the patterns of the typical reflectance patterns of a large number of different plant problems. We leverage these capabilities to develop easy-to-use monitoring solutions. Farmers that are using Agrio can monitor the health of their fields in a very simple way. All that is needed is to define the field location by drawing a polygon that represents the field boundary. Once this is done we are kicking in to do constant monitoring for you, and notify you when a new scan is available.

On our platform, users can get access to Sentinel and PlanetScope satellite scans. We apply our algorithm to the imagery to monitor crop progress, spot problems in the field, and alert growers when interventions are needed.

We invite you to leverage these capabilities to avoid losses, grow better, and spray less.

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Remote monitoring of cornfields during critical reproductive stages

Corn tasseling is the reproductive stage of corn where the tassels, which are located on the top of the plant, produce pollen. The tasseling stage is important for both the yield and quality of corn and extra care should be provided that plants are in optimal conditions at this stage.

Despite the potential size of the ear already being determined during the previous growth phase, what happens during this period determines the plant’s ability to express the yield potential. The more pollination that occurs the better the eventual yield will be.

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Corn tasseling

How does satellite imagery help farmers?

The ability to monitor crop progress and spot problems in the field before symptoms are apparent is crucial for a successful harvest. Exciting advancements in technology allow us to capture images of farms around the world with the aid of satellites, thus making monitoring simple and affordable.

In the tasseling phase, the crop is vulnerable to insect infestations and disease outbreaks. This phase lasts between 10 to 14 days and it’s crucial to keep an eye on the crop during this time. With the aid of remote sensing monitoring, we can identify the transition to the tasselig phase very accurately. The accuracy of the analysis is very high if we use satellites that visit the fields on a daily basis as we are able to provide the identification of the phase transition in a few days lag.

To monitor the phase transition we monitor the Leaf area index (LAI). LAI is a measure of leaf surface area per unit of ground area. Corn tasseling prediction based on leaf area index is a technique that uses LAI measurements to estimate when corn will enter its reproductive phase. Monitoring the leaf area index with satellites is a new and innovative way to monitor vegetation. It’s an alternative to traditional methods of monitoring vegetation with ground-based measurement.

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Identification of the tasseling stage based on satellite monitoring

Once we identified the phase transition we use the satellites scan to monitor the plant’s health. In the tasseling stage, it becomes crucial to inspect the plants’ health very closely. Any stress at this stage will result in irreversible losses and therefore a fast reaction is important. The high frequency of satellites visits is essential. With satellites that monitor the fields on a daily basis, growers can identify problems in the fields very early and prevent spread. The spatial resolution is important as well, and with a 3-meter scanning resolution, we are able to have a better capability to observe tiny changes in the plants’ health indicators.

Farmers that are using Agrio can monitor the health of their fields in a very simple way. All that is needed is to define the field location by drawing a polygon that represents the field boundary. Once this is done we are kicking in to do constant monitoring for you, and notify you when a new scan is available.

On our platform, you can get access to Sentinel and Planet scope satellite scans. With Sentinel we are able to provide 10-meter resolution scans with 3-5 days revisit frequency. PlanetScope is one of the satellite constellations operated by Planet. With daily revisits and 3-meter resolution, we can better deal with clouds interference and track the changes in the fields more closely. We apply our algorithm to the imagery to monitor crop progress, spot problems in the field, and alert growers when interventions are needed.

When a problem is detected in the scan it is important to go and inspect the plants. In the following, we provide a summary of the main problems that growers and crop advisors can expect to see in the reproductive phase.

Corn rootworm

Corn rootworm (Diabrotica balteata, Diabrotica undecimpunctata, Acalymma trivittatum, Diabrotica undecimpunctata howardi) larvae that have been feeding on corn roots will emerge as adults during the time from
tasselling through the silking and pollination period. Unsuccessful control of this pest can result in poor grain fill. The parasitic tachinid fly, Celatoria diabroticae is a good biological control option.

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Corn rootworm

Armyworm

Armyworm can cause significant damage to crops and should be dealt with during the “grain fill” period. Weak plants tend to be stripped by caterpillars before larger, healthier plants. If you see 3-4 or more caterpillars per plant, it might be a good idea to spray insecticides so your crops can reach their full potential.

Prefer planting transgenic plant varieties known as Bt-varieties which have good resistance against this pest. Keep the close surroundings of crops neat by removing weeds, plant debris, damaged parts, unwanted plant growth, and closeby plants that are non-cultivated and unprotected.

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Armyworm

European Corn Borer


The European corn borer passes the winter as a full-grown larva in corn stalks and weeds. There is a significant interaction between European Corn Borer and Anthracnose. When both are present, severe stalk damage and lodging can occur. Given the severity of the damages, it might be a good idea to harvest your plants early. This will limit the risk of you ending up with low yields due to your plants getting lodged.

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European Corn Borer damages

Common rust

Rust as the name implies creates symptoms that are yellow to orange-brown or rust-colored on the top and bottom sides of infected leaves. Symptoms generally do not appear until after tasseling. The disease is caused by the fungus Puccinia sorghi and have easily wind-dispersed spores that put them among the most mobile plant pathogens around the world.

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Rust disease symptoms on corn leaf

Northern leaf blight

Northern corn leaf blight (NCLB) is a fungal disease that often emerges where corn is grown year after year in the same field, especially where there is reduced tillage. NCLB favors high humidity conditions, but it has difficulties developing in extreme temperatures, such as very cold and hot temperatures.

Elliptical, “cigar” shaped symptoms first appear on lower leaves and move up the leaves as time passes. Severe yield loss is expected when outbreaks occur before the silking phase.

NLCB stays dorm in infected plant parts until weather conditions are favorable. NCLB infects newly planted corn through splashing water. Preparing the land with tillage practices and removing the previous season’s corn residue are essential for prevention. The presence of standing water will promote the spread of NCLB. Make an effort and improve areas on the field where water tends to accumulate and form puddles. If possible, cover the ground with polyethylene sheets to reduce water evaporation from the soil.

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Northern leaf blight disease symptoms on corn leaf

Eyespot

Eyespot is a fungal disease that is caused by the fungus Aureobasidium zeae. The pathogen overwinters in the residue from corn and therefore make it a routine to clean the field after harvest. Treatment is rarely warranted for eyespot in corn.

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Eyespot disease symptoms on corn leaf

Head smut

Head smut of corn is caused by the fungus Sphacelotheca reiliana. When scouting look for ears and tassels that were replaced with smut sori filled with teliospores.

This fungal disease can be common in certain areas. It is advised to treat the seeds with fungicides in such cases.

Anthracnose

Anthracnose in corn is a foliar disease that could be common in fields if they have not been left with corn debris from the previous year. Leaf spots typically emerge on lower leaves during wet, cloudy weather. Symptoms, which are easily overlooked at first, can look like small oval/elongated water spots on leaves. The spots form become tan with light orange to red borders. These spots coalesce and cause leaf blight. You may also notice circles of tiny black dots in the middle of blighted spots – these are fruiting bodies of the fungus. This fungus may also cause severe top dieback and stalk rot.

Other things to be aware of while scouting

  • Check for nitrogen and potassium deficiency by looking at the bottom leaves of plants.
  • Plants might turn purple if the pollination or kernel formation was unsuccessful.
  • Drought-like conditions can cause plants to flower earlier than expected. In addition, such conditions can cause a delay in the silk emergence. Irrigation should be provided if possible. Poor anthesis or pollen shed are other symptoms of drought stress.

Summary

We emphasized the importance of crop monitoring during the tasseling stage. Monitoring fields with satellites can make our lives simpler as they can help us identify the diseases that are affecting cornfields and the nutrient deficiencies in them. This will help us identify the areas where we need to take measures for prevention. Satellites can also be used to monitor a large number of fields, which is not possible with manual monitoring. This will allow us to get early warnings and exact locations of any potential problems.

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Integrated pest management in stone fruit trees in early spring

Integrated pest management is a strategy that farmers can use to combat pests and diseases in their crops. This strategy has been used for many years and is still an effective way to manage pests.

In the early 1990s, IPM was first introduced in stone fruit trees. It has been used ever since as a way to control the spread of pests and diseases in these types of trees. Farmers have found this method more cost-effective than other methods on the market today.

This article will cover some of the important aspects of IPM in stone fruit trees and how it can be used to improve productivity and reduce pesticide usage.

Wilsonomyces carpophilus

During the rainy winter months, the fungus attacks the dormant buds and a resin secretion is seen as a result.

The symptoms on the fruit and leaves begin as reddish spots that on the leaves soon become necrotic and dehydrated. Due to this, the inner part of the spot falls, leaving a perforated appearance (shot hole). Young green branches are affected by the disease and develop cankers. Fruits can become deformed.

Remove as much infected plant tissue as possible during the summer. At the beginning of fall, before rains start, spray with a Bordeaux mixture or copper-based fungicide. Repeat application in the spring before and during bloom. Dithianon-based fungicides can be used during the season before rain events.

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Shot hole disease

Botryosphaeria

The damage can be seen on the branches in the form of gummosis. Prevention should focus on keeping stress factors low and spraying with preventative fungicides after pruning or tissue injuries.

Rust

A fungal disease that causes defoliation and decreases the fruit yield as a result. In the end of each season remove all the affected leaves and clean the orchard. During the spring, preventative fungicides applications are needed if the humidity reaches high levels. Tebuconazole, Myclobutanil, and Cyproconazole can be considered. Applications should be continued in 2-3 weeks intervals until the middle of the summer.

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Rust symptoms on peach leaf

Powdery mildew

Preventative spraying applications should be focused on protecting the fruits. Therefore, such applications should be performed right after the pollination and until the fruit kernel hardens. After that protect the foliage by removing plant parts that are highly affected and apply fungicides.

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Powdery mildew symptoms on peach fruits

Peach leaf curl

This disease is caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans and affects peach, plum, nectarine, and almond trees. Peaches are the most susceptible crop and hence the name. The pathogen can be found on the host’s branches, buds, and bark. It can survive harsh weather conditions, withstanding summer’s high temperatures and prolonged dryness. At the end of a dormancy period, the fungus activity extends due to significant wetting events. As the weather changes and the flower buds swell, water splashes from irrigation or rain and cause fungus spores to reach the buds. That’s where the infection takes place, despite the fact that no green tissue is present. After the pathogen enters the host, it stimulates cells, which leads to abnormal growth. Visual symptoms first appear as reddish areas on newly emerged leaves. With time, swelling and leaf distortion cause fungus spores to break outside, release into the air, and infect new tissues. As the disease progresses, leaves may fall and be replaced by a new set of healthier leaves if a period of low humidity is present during their development. The loss of leaves during springtime results in decreased fruit production, and defoliation, and could expose branches to sunburn.

Control of peach leaf curl disease revolves around prevention through the use of chemical treatments. Broadly speaking, it is fairly common to perform two spraying treatments that are timed with respect to the physiological phase of growth. It is advised that the first treatment is implemented before buds swell, and the second treatment is implemented closer to the bud swelling process. Dithianon, captan, a copper-based fungicide, and bordeaux mix.

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Peach leaf curl

Peach twig borer

Anarsia lineatella (the peach twig borer) overwinters on the tree and the larvae emerge in the early spring. The larvae crawl out of hiding with the swelling of the buds. The pest attack flowers, leaves, and shoots. Later generations feed on fruits as well. It is difficult to monitor for it as it is found mainly in the upper third of the tree. Look for flag leaf withering as a sign of the pest presence. Remove such affected branches to lower the pest population.

At the beginning of the spring Install pheromone traps and check them weekly. Once the peach twig borer moth was captured trigger the biofix and follow the growing degree days model. The Agrio app will monitor the progress of the pest life cycle for you. Treatment should be aimed at the larvae. The monitoring of the emergence of the pest generations will help you time the Bacillus thuringiensis and spinosad insecticides optimally.

Almond bark beetle

Weak and degenerate trees, twigs that have dried up as well as trees that have withstood water should be inspected during the scouting. The beetle, in its various degrees, will be found in the woody parts that were recently dried. Look for rubber secretions as evidence of the presence of the pest. To make monitoring more robust, use pheromone traps to capture the adults. Remove and destroy all the infected wood in order to limit the spread.

Olive scale

Start monitoring after the oil spraying is done. Monitor trees that were infested in the previous season. Apply Neonicotinoid-based insecticides when 70% percent of the eggs were already laid. It is important to remember that repetitive usage of the same insecticides can cause resistance development among the pests and therefore under-optimal results.

European grapevine moth

The European grapevine moth (Lobesia botrana) feeds on the fruit. Look carefully in places in which it is hidden and protected such as under the leaves that cover the fruit. Use pheromone traps to monitor the pest presence more carefully.

Summary

Integrated pest management is a way of managing pests and diseases. It involves the use of early detection, preventative measures, and treatment methods to reduce the risk of pests and diseases. IPM is a cost-effective and sustainable pest control strategy that involves monitoring for pests, using pesticides only when necessary, and using natural predators to control the population of pests.

Caution and careful notice should be taken when using any plant protection products (insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides). It is the grower’s sole responsibility to keep track of the legal uses and permissions with respect to the laws in their country and destination markets. Always read the instructions written on labels, and in a case of contradiction, work in accordance with the product label. Keep in mind that information is written on the label usually applies to local markets. Pest control products intended for organic farming are generally considered to be less effective in comparison to conventional products. When dealing with organic, biological, and to some extent, a small number of conventional chemical products, complete eradication of a pest or disease will often require several iterations of a specific treatment or combination of treatments.

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Integrated pest management in apple orchards in early spring

Pests are one of the biggest threats to apple orchards because they can cause a lot of damage in a short period of time. As such, it is important that farmers keep an eye out for any pests so they can take preventative measures before it becomes too late.

In order to maintain the health of an orchard, it is necessary to have a pest management plan in place. A good plan will include IPM (integrated pest management) practices, which include monitoring pests, taking preventative measures, and early detection.

Growers should monitor pests such as apple maggot flies, pear psylla, and codling moth. These insects can be monitored by looking for their larva in the soil around the trees or by looking for their damage to the trees themselves. Monitor these insects every week throughout the growing season to determine which pest has the most negative impact on your orchard.

Two important fungal diseases that should be considered are powdery mildew and apple scab.

Powdery mildew

Remove as much of the infested branches before the orchard is waking up. Start monitoring before bloom. The first treatment can be combined with spraying against apple scab. Applications should be repeated every 7-14 days until the end of the growth.

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Powdery mildew of apple

Apple scab

The disease is caused by the fungus Venturia inaequalis. When bloom starts, inspect the leaves and fruits and look for dark powder stains. Combine systematic fungicides such as Difenoconazole with contact fungicides such as mancozeb. Make sure that the spraying is applied especially before rains. Contact fungicides can be applied right after the end of the rains.

To protect the crop from damages caused by pest insects pay attention to the following insects: Codlig moth (Cydia pomonella), San Jose scale, Leopard moth (Zeuzera pyrina), Almond bark beetle (Scolytus amygdali), Olive scale (Parlatoria oleae), and European red mite (Panonychus ulmi).

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Apple scab


Codling moth

Codling moth larvae are one of the most destructive pests. Although it can attack various fruits, it mainly damages apples. This is the main pest of apples and needs to be managed in each orchard. Orchards should be scouted twice a week early in the season and once a week later on.

Use pheromone traps to attract male moths. Traps are made of plastic to create a passage and the bait is placed inside. The inner surface of the bottom is coated with a sticky material to hold insects when they fall into the trap. The traps are hung in on the tree at eye level, one for every two acres of trees. It should be installed before the pink stage of apple bud development and checked every day. A total of five moths captured in the trap is the threshold to set the biofix, this is the day in which growing degree days should start counted. Use the Agrio app to time the insecticide applications accurately.

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Codling moth

San Jose scale

Install pheromone traps and sticky tapes before blooming begins. The pheromone traps should be located in the canopy, protected from the wind. Lures should be replaced monthly. Monitor these traps regularly looking for adult males. Once males are captured set the biofix date to start tracking the crawlers emergence. Apply treatment aimed at crawlers. Make sure that the spraying covers the entire tree. Reinstalll the traps to track the emergence of following generations.

Olive scale

Start monitoring after the oil spraying is done. Monitor trees that were infested in the previous season. Apply Neonicotinoid-based insecticides when 70% percent of the eggs were already laid. It is important to remember that repetitive usage of the same insecticides can cause resistance development among the pests and therefore under-optimal results.

Leopard moth

The larvae burrow in the wood skeleton and cause degeneration and destruction of the wood. Identify active burrows and pull the larvae out with a thin steel wire. The sawdust should be scattered under the tree to allow identification in the case of renewed activity. Traps can be used to capture the female moth. Traps with pheromone should be hanged near wooded areas. Install sexual disruption as it is very effective against this moth.

Almond bark beetle

Weak and degenerate trees, twigs that have dried up as well as trees that have withstood water should be inspected during the scouting. The beetle, in its various degrees, will be found in the woody parts that were recently dried. Look for rubber secretions as evidence of the presence of the pest. To make monitoring more robust, use pheromone traps to capture the adults. Remove and destroy all the infected wood in order to limit the spread.

Summary

Integrated pest management is a way of managing pests and diseases. It involves the use of early detection, preventative measures, and treatment methods to reduce the risk of pests and diseases. IPM is a cost-effective and sustainable pest control strategy that involves monitoring for pests, using pesticides only when necessary, and using natural predators to control the population of pests.

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What every farmer needs to know about pesticide weather considerations

The importance of weather in pesticide spraying

There is a limited amount of time to control plant pests and diseases. As the time window opportunity might be even shorter due to unsuitable weather conditions, applicators need to be able to identify and plan accordingly. Weather plays a huge role in pesticides application timing. It can significantly impact the amount of pesticides that are sprayed, their effectiveness, and the risk of causing harm to the plants and the environment.

The 4 key weather factors in pesticide application success

The four key factors that affect weather and pesticides are temperature, wind, precipitation, and humidity. The worst weather conditions for spraying are strong wind, high temperature, intensive rain, and low humidity. The wind is a crucial factor because it affects how pesticides move through the air; The wind can carry agricultural pesticides far away from where they were sprayed, making them drift onto other people’s property. This decreases the effectiveness of the spraying and increases the risk of polluting the environment and harming people living in nearby areas. This is why farmers must take into account wind direction and speed when spraying their fields with agricultural pesticides in order to reduce spray drift.

Precipitation and humidity can also change how pesticides are distributed, but it has a more minor effect than wind. Temperatures of air and surfaces are important factors in the efficacy of pesticides. Different chemical compounds have different temperature ranges at which they are most effective. For example, the insecticide pyrethroid is most effective at temperatures higher than 50°F.

Spraying pesticides outside is not recommended when there is more risk for a high evaporation rate, degradation, and extended droplet lifetime. Degradation of pesticides can be increased when the humidity is high. High humidity also decreases evaporation, resulting in extended droplet lifetime and increased drift risk. These also play an essential role in safety. Higher concentrations of pesticides in the air can lead to potential health risks for workers and nearby residents. Some pesticides are more sensitive to temperature changes than others. In warm weather, humidity should allow good evaporation conditions. This will ensure that the pesticides have less time to break down into toxic compounds while contacting the plants. Decisions on spraying in such cases become challenging as high temperatures make plants more vulnerable to pests and diseases. Their natural defense systems break down and become more susceptible to pests and diseases like fungi and insects. Therefore, applicators need to carefully choose the timing of spraying to protect plants in such weather conditions.

A better way of telling how quickly pesticide droplets evaporate is the Delta T indicator. Delta T is the difference between wet and dry bulb temperatures, which can be calculated by combining the effect of temperature and relative humidity.

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Delta T and preferred spraying conditions

Growers should also pay attention to the inversion phenomena. Inversion happens when the temperature increases with the distance from the ground. Spraying should be avoided in this case as the risk of drifting pesticides to long distances is high. The inversion hazard is often highest from dusk to a few hours after sunset and weak at sunrise.

Rainfall can have a significant effect on the efficacy of pesticides. Rain has been shown to reduce pesticide wash out in some instances and increase pesticide wash out in others. The primary function of systemic pesticides is to be taken in by the roots, but the rain needs to be relatively light for this to happen without the effect of washing the active material away from the plant surrounding. In general, the plant will absorb most of the systematic pesticide solution within about 2-4 hours. Therefore, it is essential to know how long you need to spray before the rain starts in order to get an acceptable level of control. In the case of contact pesticides, rains can wash out the active ingredient and damage the protective and curative effect that was intended.

Pesticides can be applied as a liquid, powder, or gas. The pesticide used depends on the crop and pest to be controlled. The method of application should be added to the set of considerations when weather conditions are considered. For example, herbicides can evaporate at a greater rate when sprayed under high temperatures, while fungicides can freeze at lower temperatures.

Generally speaking, the best time to spray is early morning or late evening when there is little wind, and the temperature is cool. In the case of insecticide, the evening is preferred as the interference with bees is minimized.

How technology can help you with timing spraying

With constant hyper-local weather monitoring and forecasting, we can show you the best spraying opportunities in the Agrio app. We save you time and present you with this information when you decide on a spraying application. In addition, our weather forecasts update every hour, so you can stay updated when forecasts are changing.

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Intervention scheduling. Red – don’t spray | Yellow – Spraying conditions are not optimal | Green – Good conditions for spraying

Once a spraying strategy is planned, we help you keep a record and send you reminders in due time.

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Track field Interventions
Summary

Using weather predictions to optimize treatment timings is an essential tool that will help you to optimize pest and disease control in your fields. We look forward to seeing you leveraging this technology for intelligent and effective pest management in your field. 

In the meantime, as always, we wish you an abundant harvest.

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Collaborative tool for precise plant protection

Farmers and crop advisors share a common goal of maximizing crop yield. They need to work together to make sure that all interventions are coordinated, which is where digital tools come in handy. Farmers can use their mobile devices to access information from the cloud, while crop advisors can use this data as well as local knowledge to create notes for future interventions. The instant sync feature ensures that changes made by one person will be updated on all other devices in real-time.

Although many communication channels already exist, there is a need to equip farmers with dedicated tools to help increase productivity. We introduce a new set of features to our mobile app to help teams to manage plant protection in their fields. Farmers and crop advisors will now be able to increase their collaboration and communication with each other.

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In the past, collaboration was only possible as part of Agrio’s Workgroup, which is intended for large groups of growers such as farming cooperatives. Today, we made it possible for Agrio users to collaborate on a single field. Farmers and crop advisors can now examine remote sensing insights, alerts, and information that was collected during the inspection process. Moreover, now they can assign plant protection-related tasks to each other and coordinate interventions in a simple way.

Team members are notified once satellite scans, preventative suggestions, and other recommendations are ready. Members can examine and analyze these inputs together and review the places in the fields that require attention. The scouting tasks can be assigned to the group members. Members are notified again once the fields were scouted and observations were uploaded to the system.

In the field, inspectors create geotagged digital scouting reports. Team members can see the observations that were collected, get updates on the parts of the fields that were inspected by other team members, and plan the scouting route accordingly. Discussions on the required interventions is becoming easier within the groups.

An AI-based assistant that helps you to create scouting reports

Team members can define tasks, such as trap checking, and be notified once tasks are completed by other members. Pesticides applications, fertilization, irrigation operations, and other interventions can be easily recorded using the field calendar. We use this information to send you reminders and let you know when we have insights on which interventions worked better. Use this tool to create experiments with different interventions and monitor their progress.

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We believe that collaboration and communication are important for proper plant protection. We are excited to offer farmers and field inspectors this new capability and look forward to progressing the field of agriculture together.

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Growing degree days and pest management optimization

With integrated pest management (IPM), monitoring crops and correctly identifying pests demands well-trained experts. The decision to choose one treatment over another is based on a set of factors that include the pest’s identity, the size of the pest population, the pest maturity stage, and the environment. If treatment is to be applied, it should be scheduled to make the most economic sense.

Whether you are an agronomist, farmer, or gardener, tracking the growing degree days (GDD) can take your plant protection skills to a whole new level. Luckily this operation that is considered cumbersome, and requires phenology modeling understanding, is becoming very simple with technology.

GDD is a measure used to calculate the amount of heat required for the development of organisms (such as insects) in each stage of their growth. GDD is used to predict insects’ migration, egg hatching, fungal spore development, sexual maturity, and more. Operations that aim to reduce the population density of a pest need to coincide with the high presence of the most susceptible life stage of the species in the field. With insects, GDD can help us time the vulnerable stages of certain insects, such as the hatching of eggs of a particular pest. Compared with using the calendar method to estimate the organism stage, GDD is a more accurate method.

Each organism may require a different amount of accumulated heat to develop from one life stage to another. Phenology models are being developed and tested in laboratories and field experiments to provide accurate life cycle predictions. However, such procedures are expensive to conduct, and therefore the phenology models of many organisms are not readily available. Large-scale observations made by growers worldwide and reported on the Agrio platform is an easy way that allows the development and update of such models.

Combining a weather forecast with a rigid phonology model brings a new level of sophistication to pests, diseases, and weeds management.

Development thresholds

Phonology models predict the effect of temperature on the growth and development of biological organisms. Experiments show that there is a range of temperatures in which development is possible. The lower and upper developmental thresholds are usually used. When the temperature is below the lower developmental threshold, the organism is not expected to develop further. The upper developmental threshold is generally regarded as the temperature at which the growth rate starts to decrease. Both the lower and upper thresholds are determined through experiments and are unique to a specific organism.

Biofix

The accumulation of growing degree days starts at the biofix (biological fix) date. The biofix can be a biological event or a calendar date that makes the organism’s survival possible. In case of a biological event, growers are required to scout their fields to time the event’s occurrence. In some cases traps installation and frequent examinations of the traps are needed to set the biofix accurately.

In many situations, the biofix is set based on the development stage of the plant. Satellite monitoring and weather models help us to forecast the plant stages for you. We send detailed information regarding scouting recommendations in every stage of the growth.

Area-wide Integrated Pest Management

Once precise methods are followed to decide on treatment schedules, there are vast options that become possible. One of the exciting possibilities is the alignment of treatment schedules in different farms and gardens. Communities of growers can consider the practice of Area-wide integrated pest management, which is the paradigm in which pest control decisions and timing are coordinated in many fields occupying a wide area. This approach is especially effective for mobile pests as it provides better control of pests in wide areas by eliminating the pest migration between fields.

Easy weather analysis and treatment optimization

Agrio makes precise hyper-local weather forecasts easily available to all growers. These state-of-the-art weather prediction models provide our growers an hourly hyper-local weather forecast designated specifically to their unique area anywhere in the world; the forecast is provided at a 3km resolution, so it is specific to their fields and gardens.

We help growers abandon cumbersome excel sheets and instead rely on our algorithms to do the GDD tracking for them.  We compute the accumulation of the growing degree days based on hourly temperatures instead of the more common practice of averaging the day low and high temperatures. This guarantees more accurate results. We manage the entire process for the grower in the following way:

  • The home screen’s daily briefing instructs growers on the required scouting operations and interventions in their fields. These are updated in real-time with the progress of the growing degree days accumulation, observations in the field made by the grower, and observations made by the community members in relevant proximity.
  • Agrio instructs growers when and how to set the biofixes promptly. We provide elaborate information on trap installation and maintenance as well.
  • Agrio tracks GDD according to multiple phonology models that correspond to different pests, diseases, and weeds in different fields or gardens that a grower manages.
  • We use big-data to optimize our predictions and offer phenology models particular to the different locations. We validate our phenology models continuously and adjust them when and where it is needed.
  • We coordinate area-wide integrated pest management operations and present users with the optimal IPM treatment on time.

The codling moth example

To demonstrate how this technology can help growers, we want to discuss the tracking of growing degree days for a specific example. We will discuss the management of the codling moth in apple orchards.

Codling moth larvae are one of the most destructive pests. Although it can attack various fruits, it mainly damages apples. This is the main pest of apples and needs to be managed in each orchard.

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To monitor the presence of adults in the orchard, growers need to install pheromone traps. The trap’s purpose is to attract male moths, and they should be installed before the pink stage of apple bud development. The trap’s inner surface is coated with a sticky material to hold insects when they fall into the trap. Traps should be checked by growers every day, and the trapped moths should be counted in each area separately. A total of five moths captured in the trap is the threshold to set the biofix; this is the day on which growing degree days will start to be tracked by the app. The accumulation of growing degree days is used to predict when egg hatching will occur and when pesticide application will be most effective.

Before the pink stage of the apple buds development, Agrio notifies growers that pheromone traps should be installed. The information page provides all the required instructions for the installation. In addition, the information page instructs the grower what requirements need to be satisfied to set the biofix.

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Daily briefing screen
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Biofix requirements
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Treatment instructions

Once the biofix was set, Agrio starts to track the GDD and shows an estimation of the time until the next spraying is due; growers should stay tuned and follow the instructions in the daily briefing section on the app. Notifications are sent as a reminder when important events are near. Growers can use our image identification capabilities if help is needed with the trap analysis, as precise identification of the moth can be challenging. The aim is to spray when the eggs are hatching; this is when growers will be notified with information on the required intervention.

The colorado potato beetle example

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Colorado potato beetle | weather-smart treatment plan

The colorado potato beetle is a pest that can destroy the potato, eggplant, and pepper crops. If it is not controlled, the beetle will reproduce rapidly and cause damage to the plants. The life-cycle of the potato beetle can be predicted by using a weather-based model. It is important to know the vulnerable period of the pest in order to determine when it is time to spray. This can help in controlling the pest population and reducing pesticide use. The life-cycle of this pest can be predicted by using weather-based models. This model predicts the optimal time to apply pesticide treatments.

Female adults produce hundreds of eggs each year. The eggs are usually bright yellow to orange and typically found in clusters of ten to thirty, on the underside of leaves. The model estimates when frequent scouting needs to be started in order to find signs of the eggs’ presence. Growers are notified and asked to confirm the eggs’ presence in order to start the life-cycle tracking.

The larvae should hatch from the eggs in 4-9 days depending upon the temperature of the air. After this, they will molt 3 times before they pupate. These immature phases are called instars, and there are a total of 4. Biological treatment is effective against the first-stage larvae, and chemical spraying should be timed to the emergence of later stages. The number of pest generations in one season is also weather-dependent, and the model will estimate it for you, too.

Summary

We are adding new crops and new pest models on a regular basis. Please write to us and tell us which pests you want us to prioritize.

Monitoring GDD helps eliminate the guesswork in determining the time required for control measures. We look forward to seeing you leverage this technology for smart and effective pest management in your field. 

In the meantime, as always, we wish you an abundant harvest.

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Hyperlocal weather forecast for better farming

From sowing to harvest, weather is one of the key factors for a successful yield. Weather forecast is an essential tool for growers who want to ensure healthy and productive crops. 

Weather conditions affect crops from seed to fruit and should influence the decisions growers make in the field to maximize quality and yield. Irrigation, pest and disease management, and other aspects can be optimized if planned accordingly. Weather conditions can also dictate how and when field work can be done, and it can change (or even prevent) harvesting.

In this article, we are going to discuss the important weather considerations during the growing season and describe how technological advancements allow farmers to derive weather-wise plans and stay up-to-date with weather predictions like never before.

Temperature considerations for planting and harvesting

Plant development is strongly influenced by ambient temperature exposure. Generally speaking, warmer days advance the growth of plants while cooler days stunt growth. The accumulated degrees above a threshold (the base temperature) are referred to as the growing degree days (GDD). This is used to estimate the growth of certain plants during the growing season. The method is considered a more accurate estimation of the growth stage for plants compared to the age of plants. Tracking the GDD can help growers with deciding on the timing for fertilization and harvesting.

On the other hand, in some plants, winter dormancy release depends on having a sufficient number of accumulated chill hours, as in apples or grapes. If the temperature does not drop low enough, the release from dormancy and subsequent plant flowering may become weak and uneven. In the absence of optimal conditions, the grower needs to apply chemicals to “wake” the plants and induce a uniform flowering.

When sowing, several questions need to be addressed. Has there been enough water accumulation in the soil for seeds to sprout and develop? Are the days following the sowing going to have enough sunlight? Is there a danger of frost? Also, in certain crops, the temperature at the time of the harvest is important. For example, the sugar content and composition of wine grapes is more stable at lower temperatures so grapes are often harvested in cooler times of the day. 

Accurate long and short-term weather forecasting is a crucial tool for growers when planting and harvesting timing needs to be planned ahead. 

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Year after year corn development differences. In the example above we compare the development of corn in the same field in different years. Notice the slower growth of the crop that was sowed in August 2021 compared to August 2020. In particular, the transition from the 7-leaves stage to 5-inch tassels took 18 days longer in 2021 due to less favorable weather conditions.

Irrigation planning

Once the field is sowed, weather forecasting helps growers optimize growth conditions. Weather forecasting can help with planning efficient irrigation schedules that save water and reduce irrigation dependency. Knowledge of hot dry days can be anticipated in advance to allow effective irrigation that prevents plant stress. Other factors such as temperature, humidity, sunlight intensity, and wind are important as well, as water loss from the evaporation from plants and soil (known as evapotranspiration) is affected by these factors. The large amount of the variables that can change, and the high frequency of their change, makes planning efficient irrigation schedules complex. Keeping track of rain and evapotranspiration through the aid of technology provides an easy and practical way to develop precise irrigation plans that continuously update as weather conditions change.

Pest and disease management

Not only do weather conditions dictate plant behavior and development, but weather conditions also strongly influence the emergence and development of pests and diseases such as the migration of insects, egg hatching, fungal spore development, sexual maturity, etc. 

Combining a weather forecast with the knowledge of the evolution of specific pests or diseases brings a new level of sophistication to pest and disease management. Weather predictions and GDD are used to predict when pest emergence is likely to occur. Growers then know when to look for pests and how to optimally time the application of preventative measures and pesticides. For example, the adult moths of the European Corn Borer typically start to appear and mate around spring, when the weather starts to get warmer. The eggs are laid on the underside of host plants, and within several days, they hatch as larvae and start feeding. By calculating the GDD, a grower can predict moth emergence and apply preventative measures when the pest is most vulnerable (and before damage has been done).

Smart weather-based planning can also prevent wasteful applications of pesticides and fertilizer. A chemical pesticide or fertilizer applied right before rain can be washed away and will have little or no effect. Pesticide applications on windy days are also situations to avoid, as the wind can have an adverse effect on the dispersal of pesticides and even cause damage in nearby fields due to the drift. Spraying should be avoided when wind speed is above 15 km/h. 

Temperature should also be taken into consideration when deciding when to spray because of several factors such as the potential for droplet evaporation, risk of phytotoxicity and more. In general, spraying pesticides should be avoided if temperatures are above 30 degree Celsius. 

Relative humidity in the air is another important factor that influences the evaporation of droplets. Spraying should be avoided when humidity is low.

Knowing the right days to apply pesticides and fertilizer may make a difference between a healthy field and an unhealthy one.

Weather forecasting

Several methods for weather forecasting are used by growers. These include large, regional weather stations that are based on a great deal of information and provide granular, low-resolution information to on-premise weather stations that are more area precise, but are relatively expensive and require installation and maintenance. 

Better, faster computers and finer measurement tools have made meteorological modeling precise and weather forecasting more reliable than ever before. Observations such as temperature, humidity, and wind characteristics are gathered from different sources like weather stations, weather radars, and aircrafts, which is then fed into computers to produce weather forecast simulations. The more accurate and abundant the input is, the more precise and localized the forecasts are. The increasing power of computers allows for frequent forecast refinement that result in high-resolution predictions in space and time. 

Such technological advancements make it possible to provide growers with high-resolution forecasts in an affordable way, even in rural, low-income nations that do not have access to weather measurement devices or affordable local weather stations. These new methods are important because they can predict the microclimate at the level of the field, allowing growers to prepare and plan ahead.

Agrio helps you to plan ahead

Combining weather forecasts and agricultural knowledge can have powerful outcomes. Agrio makes precise, hyper-local weather forecasts easily available to all growers. Our prediction models combine weather measurements and observations from different sources. These state-of-the-art weather prediction models provide our growers an hourly hyper-local weather forecast designated specifically to their unique area anywhere in the world; the forecast is provided at a 3km resolution so it is specific to their fields. 

precise, hyper-local weather forecasts easily available to all growers

By leveraging technological advancements, we help growers abandon cumbersome excel sheets and instead rely on our algorithms to do the tracking for them. 

Agrio provides several dedicated features that allow growers to:

This allows growers to plan an efficient growing season and spraying schedule, save money, and grow stronger and healthier plants. We look forward to seeing you leverage this technology for smart and effective weather interventions in your field. 

In the meantime, as always, we wish you an abundant harvest.

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2 Big Reasons to Implement Crop Rotation in Your Next Growing Season

Crop rotation is the practice of growing different crops in a sequence on the same field and it has been used as an important tool to improve farming since the early days of agriculture. In this practice, each crop serves a different purpose in the order of rotation. The crops are categorized into two main groups: Feeder crops and cover crops. Feeder crops deplete the soil nutrients, whereas cover crops are used to restore the soil, green manure and prevention of erosion. 

The main benefits of crop rotation are disease and pest management and preservation and restoration of soil health. Though, there are additional benefits such as reduced reliance on chemicals and cattle grazing that will not be discussed in this scope.

Feeder crops

Chenopodiaceae (e.g. spinach, beetroot)
Brassicas (e.g. broccoli, cabbage)
Cucurbits (e.g. cucumber, melon)
Solanaceae (e.g. tomato, potato)
Alliums (e.g. onion, leek)
Corn

Cover crops

Legumes (e.g. alfalfa, beans)
Grasses (e.g. sorghum, oats)

Managing Pests and Diseases with Crop Rotation

Pests and diseases are one of the biggest challenges to growers worldwide. The good news is that crop rotation can help combat pests and diseases by interrupting life cycles and altering pest habitats.

The spread of pests and diseases can be inhibited by understanding their life cycle. Fungi, bacteria, insects, nematodes and even viruses have specific hosts that can be removed and habitats that can be made less favourable to them. This can help disrupt and reduce the population of pests and diseases. 

For example, if a potato field has a Colorado Potato Beetle infestation, alfalfa can be planted in the following season to reduce pest pressure. What would planting alfalfa in this case achieve? Well, during the growing phase, the beetle will lay its eggs in the field. The eggs would hatch to alfalfa plants, which are not viable hosts for the beetle. This means that the larvae population will be greatly reduced because of its lack of mobility (in the larvae stage the pest doesn’t have wings). By altering the beetle’s habitat, and interrupting its life cycle, prevention of a buildup of the beetle’s population for the next planting season is achieved.

If the grower were to grow potatoes in neighboring fields, it would reduce the effectiveness of using alfalfa for crop rotation because the potatoes would act as a temporary host for the beetle. Beetles can migrate back to the main field the following season when the potato crop is planted again. 

While the alfalfa is grown in the field as a cover crop, weeds from the solanaceous family (such as nightshade) may host the beetle. Thus, weeds can also function as potential transitional hosts and act as temporary hosts for the beetle. Such challenges among others can hinder the effectiveness of the crop rotation.

Growers can achieve higher yields by having a good understanding of the biology of pests and diseases. Does the pest or disease have a wide or short-range of hosts? How long can the pest or disease survive without a host? How mobile is it? These and other questions need to be addressed when planning crop rotation for pest and disease management. Additionally, by relying less on conventional chemicals for pest management, there is less chance of the pests and diseases developing resistance which leads to a higher success rate for eradicating the problem. 

Preserving and Building Soil Quality

While crop rotation implications on plant protection is an important consideration for its own sake, growers need to pay attention to soil quality. Years and years of intensive single crop farming can exhaust the soil, deplete its nutrients and damage the microorganism ecology. This can reduce  yields, increase the need for fertilizers, and increase soil pathogens that damage the plants. How can crop rotation help build good soil health?

Some crops are known to be beneficial for soil health; these are known as cover crops. Cover crops promote soil health and structure, return nutrients to soil and contribute to the soil ecology. 

Potato is an example of an exhaustive crop, which means that soil’s nutrients can be depleted after growing potatoes consecutively. Growers can prevent exhaustive crops from depleting soil by planting cover crops. In this case a legume such as alfalfa.

Why legumes? Legumes are known to be restorative crops. Legumes have symbiotic bacteria in their root system that capture atmospheric nitrogen and return it to the soil in a form that is available to the plant. Legumes also have a deep taproot which is used to recycle nutrients that are deeper in the ground. 

Grasses can be used as cover crops as well. Grasses have wide fibrous root systems that secrete substances into the soil and promote soil aggregation. This process stabilizes the soil and improves aeration. Their roots also decompose slowly and act as a source of slow-releasing nutrition.

What makes cover crops even more interesting is the fact that they can be used as green manure. At the end of the season cover crops can be cut up or left to decompose in the soil. Doing so adds rich organic substance to the soil and promotes soil health. However, the usage of green manure should be planned carefully as the decomposing plant material may be a source of inoculation and spread of pathogens.

Using legumes, grass or even leaving the soil fallow for some period can greatly benefit soil health. It can return nutrients, promote soil microorganisms, and better the soil structure.

Planning out a crop rotation

Poor yield, heavy fertilizer reliance and high pest and disease pressure should incentivise growers to make plans for crop rotation.

Planning of the crop rotation can be divided into several steps:

  1. Deciding which cover crops are available to be used based on location and climate, local market trends, and the season of the available field.
  1. Deciding when to plant the cover crops. Ask yourself how often you can afford to rotate and what type of rotation. Are you going to plant only in the off-season, or have several consecutive seasons of cover crops.
  1. Deciding which cover crops to use: legumes or grasses. Both legume and grass have relatively low nutrient demands and can be used as green manure. Other considerations that should be taken into account include their main benefits:

Legume benefits:

  • Able to capture atmospheric nitrogen(N)
  • Recycles nutrients from deeper soil

Grass benefits:

  • Promotes soil aggregation and aeration
  • Acts as a source for the slow release of organic material

What Else?

The root systems of cover crops hold the soil together and stabilize its structure which prevents strong rain and storms from causing soil erosion. Cover crops promote a diverse field that can combat weeds and might even suppress weed growth. In addition, rotating with a crop allows for easy weed control and gives growers an opportunity to reduce the build up of weeds.

When used correctly, crop rotation can be an effective and powerful tool to add to crop management. Its benefits can be wide and long lasting for managing pests and diseases by interrupting life cycles and altering habitats, preserving and promoting soil health and stability, and enriching the microorganism ecology of the soil.

We can help growers to be better, greener and more effective. 

  • Our platform helps growers keep records of the crops in their fields.
  • Our database can help growers plan a crop rotation by providing a historical account of pests and diseases in the region.
  • Our resource library provides detailed information on the life cycle and range of hosts for pests and diseases in accordance with specific crops and locations.
  • Our system generates end of season crop cover recommendations.

We are looking forward to seeing you apply this information to build a smart, effective crop rotation in your field. In the meantime, as always, we wish you an abundant harvest.

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Monitoring Crops and Mapping Chlorophyll Content Remotely

The ability to monitor crop progress and spot problems in the field before symptoms are apparent is crucial for a successful harvest. In this article, we want to discuss how mapping the spatial variability of leaf chlorophyll content (LCC) within fields can help in spotting plant health problems and differing quantities of nitrogen fertilizer application.

The leaf chlorophyll content is an important indicator of plant health, photosynthetic potential, and nutritional state. Although extraction analysis by field sampling provides an accurate estimation of LCC status, such methods are not practical. Non-destructive remote sensing measurement offers an affordable, and frequent way for assessing the LCC of plants over fields in high resolution.

The leaf nitrogen content is strongly correlated with chlorophyll content. The optimum rate and application timing of nitrogen fertilizer is crucial in achieving a high yield. Monitoring the chlorophyll index allows variable-rate fertilizer application and site-specific crop management.

Weather and soil conditions are major factors in the rate at which nitrogen is escaping the soil system to the atmosphere, and therefore the fertilization needs cannot be easily predicted. New ways to observe fields can reduce the grower guesswork when mid-season fertilizer application decisions are made, it is an important decision since the costs of nitrogen can make the difference between a profitable season to an unfavorable one

Why the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) is not suitable for this task? NDVI shows a low correlation with the chlorophyll content, it is more severe in advanced growth stages when the NDVI becomes saturated. This saturation is due to the increase in the leaf area, and the density of the canopy structure. In this stage, there is a need to monitor an index that is highly correlated with the leaf chlorophyll content and less sensitive to the leaf and canopy structure.

Farmers that are using Agrio can monitor crops and the chlorophyll index of their fields in a very simple way. All that is needed is to define the field location by drawing a polygon that represents the field boundary. Once this is done we are kicking in to do constant monitoring for you, and notify you when a new scan is available. 


Monitoring crop condition - evolution of chlorophyll content in the growing season
evolution of chlorophyll content in the growing season


We expect a scan to be available every few days, but when the sky is cloudy a clear shot of the field is not possible and we need to wait for the next time that the satellite is passing above your field. On our platform, you can get access to Sentinel and Planet scope satellite scans. With Sentinel we are able to provide 10-meter resolution scans with 3-5 days revisit frequency. PlanetScope is one of the satellite constellations operated by Planet. With daily revisits and 3-meter resolution, we can better deal with clouds interference and track the changes in the fields more closely.

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Early detection of plant disease based on the chlorophyll index

We do the image analysis and alert you when we find anomalies

Wondering how your last field intervention affected the plants? Did you manage to improve the health of the plants? Do the leaf area and chlorophyll concentration show improvement? You can monitor such changes by selecting the “compare” tab. We compare your subsequent satellite scans to show you the change in a 3-5 days resolution.

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Compare subsequent satellites scans to monitor progress

Take a big leap forward in your farming practices by engaging with the Agrio remote sensing technology. We are looking forward to helping you with that.

In the meantime, as always, we wish you an abundant harvest.

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Monitoring agricultural fields with satellites

The ability to monitor crop progress and spot problems in the field before symptoms are apparent is crucial for a successful harvest. Exciting advancements in technology allow us to capture images of farms around the world with the aid of satellites, thus making monitoring simple and affordable. The most popular vegetation index that is being used by farmers is NDVI, it is an indicator of the health of the plant based on a reflection of different light waves.

Satellite monitoring in agriculture is a technique that has been used for many years. However, the use of satellite technology has increased significantly over the past decade. The use of satellite monitoring in agriculture can increase yield, improve precision, and early detection of issues with crops.

NDVI is a remote sensing method for estimating crop health and biomass. The NDVI index measures the difference between visible and near-infrared reflectance of the vegetation. Crop reflectance depends on leaf area, chlorophyll content, age of leaves, canopy density, and soil type. NDVI is often used with satellite imagery, which provides high-resolution images from space. The use of satellites has helped to make NDVI more accessible to farmers all over the world because it is accessible to anyone with an internet connection. The use of NDVI for crop health monitoring has been around for decades, but it has only recently gained popularity due to the use of satellites and high-resolution aerial photography that provide frequent revisits. It provides an accurate estimate of plant biomass and leaf area index (LAI) without needing any ground data collection or manual interpretation.

Farmers that are using Agrio can monitor the NDVI index of their fields in a very simple way. All that is needed is to define the field location by drawing a polygon that represents the field boundary. Once this is done we are kicking in to do constant monitoring for you, and notify you when a new scan is available. We expect a scan to be available every few days (in some packages we offer daily revisits), but when the sky is cloudy, and a clear shot of the field is not possible we need to wait for the next time that the satellite is passing above your field. Our algorithms identify the clouds in the sky automatically and we present filtered images that are clean from artifacts.

Agrio users can expect to receive the following images:

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We do the image analysis and alert you when we find anomalies.

To give you some intuition on the process let’s refer to the figure above. The vegetation degree is represented by the different colors that are shown in the legend. The spectrum starts with the brown color that represents low vegetation and ends in the dark green color that represents high vegetation. Regions in which the vegetation is lower compared to other parts of the field might indicate that there is a problem, scouting might be needed in these field regions to further investigate the cause. In the image above we can see a yellow patch on the left side of the field, in contrast to the rest of the field with the green pixels.

Use the Agrio smartphone application to upload images of the symptoms you find during your scouting. It will help us give a more precise recommendation and improve our capabilities to identify the exact problems directly from the satellite images as we go along.

Moreover, the NDVI index allows us to estimate if the crop is developing in a good phase. If the index is low in the middle of the season, there is probably a problem requiring investigation, like a nutrient deficiency.

Wondering how your last field intervention affected the plants? Did you manage to improve the health of the plants? Do the leaf area and chlorophyll concentration show improvement? You can monitor such changes by selecting the “compare” tab. We compare your subsequent satellite scans to show you the change.

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On our platform, you can get access to Sentinel and Planet scope satellite scans. With Sentinel we are able to provide 10-meter resolution scans with 3-5 days revisit frequency. PlanetScope is one of the satellite constellations operated by Planet. With daily revisits and 3-meter resolution, we can better deal with cloud interference and track the changes in the fields more closely. We apply our algorithm to the imagery to monitor crop progress, spot problems in the field, and alert growers when interventions are needed.

We save you time by optimizing your scouting routes! We are your eyes in the sky.

Take a big leap forward in your farming practices by engaging with the Agrio remote sensing technology. We are looking forward to helping you with that.

In the meantime, as always, we wish you an abundant harvest.

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Artificial Intelligence for Integrated Pest Management

Modern plant protection practices implemented in well-supported farms result in considerable yield gains. Unfortunately, such practices are not widely adopted and are still challenging to enact because farmers lack the required support and knowledge.

Integrated pest management (IPM) is the approach of combining methods that work better together than separately. It allows diseases and pests to be controlled through managing the ecosystem, which results in long-term pest control that is less risky to farmers and the environment. IPM is an environmentally sound approach that has been shown to reduce pesticide use by 80% or more compared with conventional pest control approaches.

With IPM, monitoring crops and correctly identifying pests demands well-trained experts. The decision to choose one treatment over another is based on a set of factors that include the identity of the pest, the number of crops affected, and the environment. If treatment is to be applied it should be scheduled to the timing that makes the most economical sense.

Agrio is a digital solution that leverages artificial intelligence technology to close the gap in farmer-received support. Agrio facilitates modern plant protection adaptation and is easy to use, affordable, and scalable. We simplify integrated pest management implementation by providing the following benefits to our users:

Easy method for scouting fields and sharing findings with coworkers

We offer a typing-free reporting system to provide accurate descriptions of pest and disease pressure in fields. The digital reports are automatically augmented with insights derived by our artificial intelligence algorithms. During the scouting process, location-based tasks are shared with coworkers to make the treatment procedure more efficient and precise.

AI-based assistant for scouting report creation

Addressing challenges in diagnosis for optimal treatment

Farmers and inspectors can find it challenging to identify the correct pathogens, as well as to decide the economical threshold that requires a treatment program. Our solution enables users to rely on well-trained artificial intelligence algorithms to identify problems with their crops and decide on treatment necessities. If treatment is deemed required, the options are numerous and there is no effective way to follow a protocol that is with the lowest environmental and economic risk. Our decision support system enables farmers and inspectors to follow a consistent scientific regime that optimizes the pest management process.

Predicting problems early

Timing is crucial when it comes to protecting crops and an effective IPM program could benefit from farmers knowing what to expect before it infects their fields. Prevention is most often the best treatment option. In more extreme epidemics, organizations are left unprepared when a pest or a disease invades a new territory. Agrio monitors global spread and provides users with pest and disease alerts that allow them to minimize surprises during growing seasons.

Supervising large-scale operations

IPM programs take into account numerous observations made by inspectors. By deploying their observations in real-time, and facilitating communication between coworkers, our solution considerably reduces the management resources that are required to brief inspectors, coordinate plant protection operations, and monitor the progress of outbreaks.

We developed Workgroup in order to help farming groups overcome the above challenges. Workgroup is an integrated pest management tool for farming organizations; it is an internal operations tool for managing large scale crop protection endeavors.  Workgroup is customizable and buildable; the protocols and agriculture inputs can be predetermined and displayed to users within their secure channel. Organized data from the Workgroup is displayed in a dashboard for the luxury of crop protection supervision from the office or home. The dashboard arranges information for supervisors who want more thorough management for the crop protection activities within their organizations. Workgroup allows farming organizations to manage the plant protection activities on a large scale.