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How to scout for peach twig borer in fruit orchards

To scout fruit orchards for the peach twig borer, you will need to inspect the trees for signs of infestation. The peach twig borer is a small moth that lays its eggs on the branches of apricot, almond, cherry, nectarine, plum, pear, and peach trees. When the eggs hatch, the larvae burrow into the twigs and branches, causing them to die.

To scout for the pest, look for dead or dying twigs or branches on the trees. The larvae of the peach twig borer feed on the sap in the twigs and branches, causing them to wilt and die. If you find any dead or dying twigs, carefully inspect them for the presence of the peach twig borer.

When inspecting the twigs and branches, look for the small, black-headed white larvae of the peach twig borer. These larvae are about 1/4 inch long, and have a distinctive wrinkled appearance. They may be found inside the twigs and branches. As the larvae mature, they change their color to brown.

If you find the peach twig borer in your orchard, you will need to take action to control the infestation. There are several methods for controlling the peach twig borer, including the use of chemical pesticides, cultural controls, and biological controls.

Peach twig borer. Courtesy of Ilia Ustyantsev
Peach twig borer. Courtesy of Ilia Ustyantsev

When should I start scouting for the peach twig borer?

The best time to start scouting for the peach twig borer depends on a number of factors, including the climate and location of the orchard, and the variety and type of trees being grown.

In general, it is best to start scouting for the pest as soon as the trees start to bud in the spring. This is when the adult moths begin to emerge from their overwintering sites and lay their eggs on the branches of the trees. By starting to scout early in the season, you can identify any infestations early and take action to control them before the larvae cause significant damage to the trees.

You should continue to scout for the peach twig borer throughout the growing season, as the moths can lay multiple generations of eggs throughout the summer. Monitoring the trees regularly and taking action to control any infestations that are found can help to prevent significant damage to the orchard.

Using traps to monitor the peach twig borer

There are several types of traps that can be used to catch adult peach twig borers. Some of the most effective include pheromone traps, which use a chemical attractant to lure the moths into the trap, and sticky traps, which use a sticky substance to catch the moths as they fly by.

Pheromone traps are specifically designed to attract the peach twig borer, and they can be an effective way to monitor the population of the moths in your orchard. These traps typically consist of a small container or bag that is filled with a synthetic version of the moth’s pheromone, which is a chemical that the moths use to communicate with each other. When the moths are attracted to the pheromone, they fly into the trap and become stuck.

Sticky traps are another type of trap that can be used to catch adult peach twig borers. These traps consist of a sticky substance, such as a glue-like material, that is applied to a surface, such as a card or strip of paper. When the moths fly by the sticky trap, they become stuck to the surface. Sticky traps can be placed in the orchard to monitor the population of the moths and help to identify any infestations that may be present.

Peach twig borer’s growing degree days model

A growing degree days model is a tool that can be used to predict the development of insects and plants based on temperature. Growing degree days are a measure of heat accumulation over time and can be used to predict when certain events, such as the emergence of insect pests or the flowering of plants, will occur.

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 the model would predict when the moth is likely to lay its eggs and when the larvae are likely to emerge. The model will keep you informed regarding the emergence of future generations. This information can help you to plan your pest control efforts and monitor the orchard for signs of infestation.

Monitoring growing degree days helps eliminate the guesswork in determining the time required for control measures. Download Agrio today and make it your growing degree days app. We look forward to seeing you leverage 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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How to scout for aphids in corn fields

Aphids cause substantial damage while they are hidden within the whorl. If aphids are already visible on the plant, significant damage has already occurred. Therefore, it is important to start scout for aphids three weeks prior to tasseling. Randomly select a plant every 40 meters. Pull the whorl upward and out of the plant. Slowly unroll each whorl, and look for the presence of the insects. You can use our crop stage modeling to plan your scouting activities. We will notify you three weeks before tasseling and remind you to start scouting for aphids.

Tasseling cannot be predicted accurately based on calendarial days. We use weather models to provide a more precise prediction.
Tasseling cannot be predicted accurately based on calendarial days. We use weather models to provide a more precise prediction.

Corn leaf aphids’ growing degree days model

The life cycle of this pest can be predicted by using weather-based models. These models predict the optimal time to apply pesticide treatments. Once you register a field with a host plant in Agrio, the model automatically starts to run and instructs you in each milestone.

This model allows you to time the appearance of future insect pest generations. When insects are observed on plants, set the biofix date.

The model will track the development of the insects based on weather information. We use hyper-local weather data streamed into our servers once you define your field on the map.

Summary

Monitoring growing degree days helps eliminate the guesswork in determining the time required for control measures. Download Agrio today and make it your growing degree days app. We look forward to seeing you leverage 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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How to scout for colorado potato beetle in potato fields

The Colorado potato beetle is a pest that can destroy 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 essential to know the vulnerable period of the pest to determine when it is time to spray. This can help in controlling the pest population and reducing pesticide use.

Colorado potato beetle’s growing degree days model

The life cycle of this pest can be predicted by using weather-based models. This model predicts the optimal time to apply pesticide treatments.

Scouters need to check plants frequently right after plants emerge. Look for egg masses on the underside of the leaves. Set the biofix when eggs were found.

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 to find signs of the eggs’ presence. Growers are notified and asked to confirm the eggs’ presence 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 three 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.

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Summary

Monitoring GDD helps eliminate the guesswork in determining the time required for control measures. Download Agrio today and make it your growing degree days app. We look forward to seeing you leverage 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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Phytotoxicity causes and how to minimize the risk

Phytotoxicity occurs when a substance causes a toxic effect on plants. Phytotoxicity can occur when chemicals are applied, such as in foliar spraying and irrigation systems, to protect plants from diseases, pests, and other hazards. Additionally, phytotoxicity can occur following applications of fertilizers or growth regulators. There are no control measures; therefore, the focus should be on prevention.

Symptoms of phytotoxicity

  • Burn and necrosis.
  • Chlorosis.
  • Distortion, such as cupping or twisting (might be confused with a viral disease).
  • Stunting and abnormal growth (root damage or poor germination).
Phytotoxicity symptoms on basil leaves
Phytotoxicity symptoms on basil leaves
Phytotoxicity symptoms on cucumber leaf
Phytotoxicity symptoms on cucumber leaf
Phytotoxicity burn and distortion symptoms on basil leaves
Phytotoxicity burn and distortion symptoms on basil leaves

How to differentiate phytotoxicity from other damages

Symptoms of phytotoxicity can be confused with damages caused by plant pathogenic organisms or genetic disorders. Look for the following patterns to identify damage due to chemicals:

  • Leaf damage patterns show sharp edges with no discoloration gradient.
  • Plants very close to the sprayer show more damage than plants further away from the sprayer.
  • Symptoms show up fast in a wide area (1-7 days after application), and there is no further spread after the initial show-up.
  • New growth will appear healthy.

If there is a doubt, upload images of the affected plant to the Agrio app, and our artificial intelligence will help you with the identification.

Phytotoxicity causes

Environmental conditions

We discussed in much detail the environmental conditions that increase the risk of phytotoxicity in another blog post. In high temperatures (or water-stressed plants), low and high humidity are among several weather factors pesticides should be avoided. We refer the reader to the blog post to read how Agrio can help you time pesticide applications to minimize injury risk.

Agrio can help you time pesticide applications to minimize phytotoxicity risk.
Agrio can help you time pesticide applications to minimize phytotoxicity risk.

Growth stage of plants

Seedlings, flowering and fast-growing are more sensitive. Time the pesticide applications accordingly. This is especially important when herbicides are applied.

Chemicals applied improperly

If this is the first time that you are using a new pesticide, you should refer to the label of the product to familiarize yourself with the instructions. Check the label of the chemical and make sure the crop being treated is listed. Certain plants are sensitive to certain chemicals, so be careful what you use.

Mixing incompatible chemicals should also be avoided, and the product label provides information about that. Other common causes that we encounter are the application of sulfur and oils in close time proximity (less than a one-month window) and high dosage applications. Sulfur can stay on plants for a long time, and oils interact with it, forming phytotoxic compounds.

Note that high dosage can be in one application or an accumulation of several sequential applications. Apply the chemical thoroughly and evenly to avoid high dosages in some patches.

When testing a new pesticide for the first time, it is advised to apply it on a few plants every few days to get a sense of the amount of pesticide that can cause damage to the plants.

Pay attention to the formulation. Dust and wettable powders are less harmful options than emulsifiable concentrates. Emulsifiers can react with plant tissue and cause unwanted damage. Adjuvants such as spreaders, stickers, and wetting agents can increase the risk of an injury as well.

We recommend devoting separate sprayers to herbicides. Rinse the spraying tanks between applications and calibrate your spraying equipment once a year.

Drifts from the target crop to a sensitive crop

If you practice intercropping or growing different crops in proximity, you should pay attention to drift and the non-target crop sensitivity to the applied pesticide. Examine the field drainage routes and avoid applying pesticides when there is a risk of run-off.

Avoid pesticide spraying on windy days
Avoid pesticide spraying on windy days

Residues accumulate in the soil as a cause of phytotoxicity

Repeated applications can result in the accumulation of active ingredients to a toxic level. You should refer to the product label and follow the annual rate restrictions.

If you practice crop rotation (as you should!), you need to plan the next planted crop according to the risk of residues of pesticides and herbicides in the soil. Field crops that are produced after the harvest of a pesticide-treated primary crop might be affected by soil residues. Refer to the label and check the annual application rate limit to see if the crop to be planted next can be in danger.

Summary

Plants are subject to a variety of injuries, and many of these injuries are caused by human beings. The most common human-caused injury is the use of pesticides and herbicides, which can be detrimental to plants in many ways. By following the product label instructions and implementing good practices in the farm and garden, growers can avoid such damage.

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Why ideal soil pH increases yield and how to achieve it

As in many problems growers encounter, deviations from ideal soil pH should be tackled early to prevent yield loss. Ideally, growers should adjust the soil pH before planting as adjustments when plants in the soil are slower and put the plants at risk.

What is pH

Soil pH is a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions in the soil. It is measured on a scale from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. When the pH is below 7, the medium is acidic, while above 7 is called alkaline.

How does the soil pH impact plants and what is the ideal soil pH

The pH value has a considerable effect on which nutrients plants can extract from the soil. Chemical reactions in the soil might tie nutrients up when the pH is not in the desirable range. It is common, for example, to see symptoms of chlorosis in new foliage even when fertilizers are provided regularly. Many times the reason is a high pH that makes the micro-elements less available to plants. At low pH, the leaching of magnesium and potassium increases, and their availability in the top layer of the soil decrease.

A tomato plant shows symptoms of iron deficiency. Soil ph for tomatoes should be in the range of 6.2-6.8 for optimal nutrient uptake.
A tomato plant shows symptoms of iron deficiency. Soil ph for tomatoes should be in the range of 6.2-6.8 for optimal nutrient uptake.

The most accessible form of zinc, manganese, and copper to plants require soil with a pH level between 5.5-6.5, although they can still be utilized at a moderate rate in a wider range of 4.5-7.5.

Iron becomes moderately available when the pH is below 7.5 and is highly available below 6.5. Other nutrients become less available when the pH is very low. Note that FeEDDHA (ethylenediamine-di-o-hydroxy-pheny lacetic acid), a type of chelated iron that is also known as Sequestrene 138, is available to plants even if the pH reaches 9. This is not the case with iron sulfate; another compound used to treat iron deficiency. But using FeEDDHA is not a long-term solution for iron deficiency.

In general, chelated fertilizers work better compared to regular micronutrients when the soil pH is greater than 6.5.

Effect of pH on the root availability of the essential elements in soil. Blue denotes the ideal soil pH for the majority of plants (slightly acidic). Courtesy of CoolKoon
Effect of pH on the root availability of the essential elements in the soil. Blue denotes the ideal soil pH for most plants (slightly acidic). Courtesy of CoolKoon

Heavy metals that are toxic to plants are more mobile in acidic soils and therefore are more likely to be taken up by plants. Aluminum is one of the metals that dissolve in low pH and damage plants. Severe acidity harms essential microorganisms and causes damage to the soil structure.

Since the optimal pH depends on the grown type of plant, we are providing a table with common crops and pH targets below.

PlantOptimal pH range
Alfalfa6.6-7.0
Corn5.8-6.2
Soybean6.3-6.5
Wheat6.3-6.5
Rice5-6.5
Guava5.5-6.8
Most vegetables6.0-6.8
Citrus6.0-6.8
Coffee5.0-6.0
Blueberry4.5-5.5
Rose6.0-6.5
Optimal soil pH for different crops

To conclude, growers should aim to obtain ideal soil pH in the range that is most suitable for their plants to optimize the availability of the entire spectrum of nutrients and increase yield.

How the soil pH can change with time

The pH level in the soil can change due to fertilizers or the addition of organic matter such as compost and by watering with either acidic or alkaline water. When measuring the soil pH, it is essential to check the pH of the water as well. A non-neutral water pH will make the soil pH unstable.

Organic matter and minerals that break down in the soil over time lower the soil’s pH. In addition, nitrate that goes below the root zone (nitrate leaching) causes the pH to decrease as well. Therefore growers should constantly plan ahead to keep the pH in a range that supports plant growth. Soil pH intervention takes time to have an impact, and therefore planning, and early actions are crucial.

With poor soil drainage, you can expect an accumulation of salts in the field and an increased pH. Increasing the soil calcium concentrations can help with improving drainage. As calcium concentration goes up, the soil porosity improves.

How to measure soil pH and when to do it

The soil pH can be tested in the lab after soil samples from different parts of the field or garden are sent. In addition, there are field kits that provide a colorimetric indicator that show an estimate of the pH. Different kits require mixing the soil with water before the measurement.

When measuring the pH in the field, water the soil first. Use distilled water to make the soil wet and avoid making it muddy. To make the measurement accurate, take a sample of the soil away from spots exposed to direct sunlight (especially on hot days).

A more convenient way to measure pH is to use a digital soil ph meter. In this case, examine the probes and make sure they are in good condition and rust-free. Calibrate it with natural water before performing the test. Wash the probes with distilled water to remove salts before measuring.

A field kit used to determine soil pH | Courtesy of the university of Michigan SEAS
A field kit used to determine soil pH | Courtesy of the University of Michigan SEAS

How to change the soil pH

When the pH measurements start approaching the edges of the ideal soil pH range, it is time to act. Ideally, you should apply corrections in the fall, well before the planting, as it takes time for the pH to change.

How to lower the soil pH

To lower the pH, sulfur should be applied to the soil. Elemental sulfur, aluminum sulfate, and sulfuric acid are some of the options. The different forms vary in costs and speed of action. Elemental sulfur is considered a safe and economical way to reduce soil pH and is highly recommended to home growers.

If there are already plants in the soil, apply sulfur in low doses once a month. High dosages of sulfur are toxic to plants. Test the pH again every month.

The dosage depends on the soil type and the gap between the starting point and target pH. Soils rich in clay or organic matter, for example, have a high buffering capacity and require more sulfur before change can be observed.

Sulfur should be incorporated into the soil to affect the layer in the soil that is penetrated by the roots. Watering the soil after the sulfur application can help with that.

Gypsum (calcium sulfate) is another option if you grow in alkali soil. It is not very soluble, and therefore in normal soils, it will have a very minimal effect. In alkali soil, however, the sodium concentration is high. The calcium in the gypsum replaces the sodium in chemical interactions. This results in increased water infiltration and lowering of the soil pH.

Note that organic matter such as peat moss that has a pH of 3.0–4.0 can lower the soil pH as well.

As long as the pH is above 6.5, provide the micro-elements in foliage spraying.

How to increase the soil pH

Lower soil acidity can be obtained by adding lime to the soil. Ground agricultural limestone is a popular choice. The pace of change will be higher as finer the limestone particles. Hydrated pulverized limestone is considered to have the fastest effect, but precise dosages are important and can be easily missed.

Avoid using calcium magnesium carbonate (dolomitic limestone) if the soil contains normal or high magnesium levels. Adding magnesium to the soil in such situations can be toxic to the plants.

To calculate the amount of lime needed, refer to the soil test. The buffer capacity (ECEC) is the soil’s ability to resist pH changes. ECEC measures the Cation exchange capacity (CEC), a measure of the soil’s ability to hold positively charged ions. The buffer capacity, together with the desired change in pH, dictates the amount of lime that should be added.

The lime should be incorporated into the soil to a depth of at least 10 cm. Otherwise, the effect will be very superficial, and the deep soil layers will stay acidic. Optimal soil pH correction is the one that results in uniform acidity along the soil profile. Due to that, growers that avoid the destruction of the soil structure might find it challenging to optimize the pH profile.

Summary

The soil pH is a crucial factor when it comes to plant survival and prosperity. Farmers and home growers should monitor the soil pH constantly and plan to keep it in the optimal range. We are looking forward to welcoming you to our community and supporting you with any questions you might have regarding soil pH and plant health. In the meanwhile, as always, we wish you an abundant harvest.

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Common plant watering mistakes made by home growers

Plant watering is a frequent action required to keep plants healthy and support their growth. As such, wrong practices can have a profound negative effect on plants. The good news is that these can be corrected very easily. Based on the experience we have in supporting growers on the Agrio app, we list the most common mistakes we encounter and explain how to avoid them.

Prolonged periods of wet soil

When it comes to soil moisture, it is easy to get it wrong. When the soil is wet, the process of gas exchange in the roots cannot take place at normal rates. If the gas exchange process is being interfered for a long period It can cause injuries to the roots. Soil moisture is also a crucial factor when it comes to soil-borne disease triggering. The presence of standing water will promote such diseases.

Dry soils on the other hand, can cause damage as well. The balance might be tricky when the environment is not monitored constantly.

Before we discuss a simple approach to monitoring water requirements, let’s discuss the factors that affect water availability.

Evapotranspiration

Evapotranspiration is a process in which water vapor is released into the atmosphere from the soil, leaves, and other surfaces. It is one of the ways in which water moves from plants to the air.

Evapotranspiration is a major contributor to water cycling in the global hydrologic system. The rate of evapotranspiration depends on many factors such as plant type and cover, temperature, humidity, wind speed, solar radiation, soil type, and depth. In essence, the water that we provide to the plants should compensate for the water that was lost in the evapotranspiration process.

Evapotranspiration can change considerably when the weather changes, or when we change the plant location. There is no simple way to predict a watering schedule if environmental factors are not monitored.

Overwatering and poor soil drainage

One of the main reasons for prolonged times of wet soil is overwatering. If the watering rate is above the plant needs, accumulation of water in the plant’s surroundings can happen.

When water has nowhere to go, the soil can dry itself based on evaporation. But the rate is many times not sufficient.

One common mistake we encounter is the lack of holes at the bottom of the pot. This includes situations in which the holes are blocked by stones that made their way to the bottom of the pot with time.

When selecting the container you are going to use, make sure it contains holes that allow good soil drainage, and occasionally check to see that the holes are not blocked. It is a good practice to re-pot once a year to prevent soil compaction that can contribute to poor soil drainage and root development.

Excessive water should be removed soon after the plant’s watering is finished. This is important when the pot is placed inside a tray that collects the excessive water. The tray serves as a water reservoir if not emptied. The water from the tray is pulled back into the pot, not allowing the soil to dry and keeping it wet for longer than we intended.

Why container size affects soil drainage

When the plant is still small and the roots don’t spread to the entire soil volume, the drainage is poor. You can think about the soil sections that are not reachable by the plant roots as water reservoir. Therefore, it is important to start with a small pot. The small pot will constrain the size of the roots and will not allow the plant to reach its full potential. Therefore you should re-pot once the plant grows.

If you didn’t follow the watering rules we just discussed, you might be able to get a warning sign before the situation gets out of control. You will often see fungal growth on the surface of the soil. This might indicate that the soil moisture stayed high for too long time.

Underwatering

When the weather becomes hotter, you might forget to adjust the watering volumes. This can result in poor water conduction to the foliage that, in turn, will show up as a tip burn or wilt of the plant. When the plant is exposed to direct sunlight, the early symptoms can be sunburns due to the poor ability of the plant to cool itself.

Soil that stays dry for a long time will cause injuries to the roots, which are often irreversible.

Drought stress symptoms due to lack of plant watering
Drought stress symptoms due to lack of plant watering

How to decide when to water plants

As a rule of thumb, the plant should be watered whenever the top 3 inches (roughly 10 cm) of the soil dry out. Use your fingers to feel the soil moisture level and decide if watering is needed. Note that If the soil is still wet after 7 days since the last watering, there might be a problem with the drainage.

Salinity and plant watering

Salinity is the total concentration of the ions in a medium. Ions concentration goes up when salts are dissolved. High concentrations of different salts can cause problems. High concentrations of sodium chloride can have a devastating impact on seed germination and create osmotic stress causing plants to become water deficient. High concentrations of sodium chloride can also cause ion imbalances and toxicity seen on older leaves as burned tips, which can develop into more extended necrosis.

Check the level of salts in the designated soil before planting. Plan in advance, considering crop susceptibility to sodium chloride, soil structure, and characteristics, and the quality of your water source. If necessary, initiate preventive measures that can improve overall drainage or initiate several pre-planting, high-volume irrigation executions to wash and push aside salts.

Regularly search for visual symptoms of salinity, especially after heavy rains. Look for white-colored patches on the soil. This will improve response times to prevent serious damage from occurring.

Symptoms of salt toxicity in avocado plant
Symptoms of salt toxicity in avocado plant

How to check the salts concentration in the soil and water

Measuring devices are available in gardening stores to help you test the electrical conductivity of the soil and water. The electrical conductivity is proportional to the concentration of dissolved salts in the medium.

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Avoid tap water when salts concentration is high

Very often, tap water is not a good source for plant irrigation. Tap water might contain heavy fluoride and chlorine that can aggregate in the soil and become toxic to plants. Tap water can also have a high pH that will cause an undesirable change to the soil pH in the long run. Rainwater should be the preferred option. It is common practice to aggregate rainwater in barrels during the winter and use them to irrigate plants all year.

Reverse water osmosis filters can be used to remove salts from tap water if rainwater is not a viable option.

As a last resort, put water In open containers for at least 24 hours to get rid of the fluoride. Unfortunately, this approach will not change the chlorine content in the water, and therefore it should not be the preferred approach to preprocess the water.

Prevent salt accumulation in the soil

To reduce the salt accumulation in the soil, don’t stop watering until water starts to come out from the bottom of the pot. This will allow the water to dissolve salts and remove them from the roots zone.

Overhead irrigation and increased disease risk

You might be tempted to stand in the middle of the garden and water your plants with a hose. It is a convenient way to cover the entire garden fast. But this approach is not recommended.

Overhead irrigation increases the leaf moisture and might cause a spread of pathogens from the soil to the plants.

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Leaf wetness

Generally speaking, leaf wetness makes the environmental conditions more favorable for bacterial, fungal, and oomycete pathogens. By pouring the water on the soil, we can make sure that the leaves stay dry and decrease the risk of disease development.

Splashing water from contaminated soil

Another risk factor for disease development is the potential transfer of pathogens from the soil to above-the-ground plant parts. Water splashing can be how pathogens find their way from contaminated soils to stems, foliage, and fruits. Avoiding overhead irrigation is one way to lower this risk. Growers can also cover the soil with polyethylene or mulch to lower the risk even further.

Summary

With a few simple practices, you can ensure that your plants get an adequate amount of high-quality water. We are looking forward to welcoming you to our community and supporting you with any questions you might have regarding plant watering and plant health. In the meanwhile, as always, we wish you an abundant harvest.

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What do you need to know about parasitic wasps in agriculture

Parasitic wasps in agriculture can play important role in keeping plants protected. In recent years the practical knowledge on leveraging their benefits has been growing rapidly. In this post, we will present information that will help you utilize this practice to improve plant protection in your fields and gardens.

"I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars." Charles Darwin
« I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars. » Charles Darwin

The importance of biocontrols in plant protection programs

The use of biocontrol has been around since the 19th century. Biocontrols have been used to control pests in agriculture and forestry. Biocontrols are a form of pest control that uses natural enemies to combat pests and they are a great way to reduce the amount of pesticides used.

The biggest problem with chemicals is that when you spray, the chemical doesn’t work anymore after a while because the insects build up resistance. Another downside is the toxicity of pesticides to beneficial insects. For example, most chemical sprays that kill whiteflies also kill bumblebees. Biocontrols can be used as an alternative that is friendly to pollinators and other beneficial insects.

Three types of biocontrols: predators, parasitoids, and pathogens

Biocontrols can be divided into three groups: predators, parasitoids, and pathogens. Predators eat the prey, while parasitoids lay their eggs on or in the body of their host. Parasitoids are more specific than predators and have a higher success rate in controlling populations of insects. Pathogens are microbial antagonists used to suppress diseases and eliminate insect pests. Bacillus thuringiensis for example, is a bacteria used as an insecticide that acts against moth caterpillars.

Most parasitic wasps are beneficial insects

After parasitic wasps lay their eggs, the eggs hatch, and the wasps larvae feed on the host’s body fluids. Parasitic wasps are not protected from parasitoidism; some wasps parasitize the parasites and therefore are not considered beneficial.

The number of pesticides available to farmers is running out

Pesticide resistance is a major problem for farmers around the world. Farmers need to find new ways of protecting their crops from pests or suffer the consequences. Due to the developed resistance, farmers must resort to more expensive and toxic pest control methods. The lack of new pesticides on the market is becoming more severe due to regulatory requirements. Even after such pesticides have been invented, it takes years before they can be used in farms because of the length of the approval processes. 

Biology of parasitoid wasps

Parasitoid wasps are fascinating creatures that have been around for millions of years and have evolved to be very successful in their niche. It is estimated that these organisms parasitize over 20% of all insect species. Therefore, understanding their way of action can be very helpful in pest control.

Parasitic wasps can be found worldwide, but they are most prevalent in temperate regions. The insects utilize the parasitoidism mechanism to survive and reproduce. In practice, it is an insect-host relation in which the larvae are dependent on the host while they feed on their tissues. As a result, the host will not be killed until there is a completion of larval development.

How to tell a parasitoid wasp from other insects

Wasps are shaped like a triangle, and their size is partly related to that of the host. They have long, thin waists and large wings. Some wasps are dark brown or black with yellow stripes on their bodies. Some wasps can be orange, red, or yellow with black stripes.

Wasps are distinguished from bees by their lack of pollen-carrying structures on their legs and the fact that they do not have the same kind of hairy body as bees.

How to build a parasitoid wasps population in fields and gardens

Support flowering plants in and around the growing area

Parasitic wasps can feed on nectar from flowers, so it’s not unusual for them to be attracted to the scent of flowers. The wasps can be found on most flowering plants, but they prefer some over others. The female parasitic wasp lays eggs on the host plant and then flies off to find more prey.

Allow at least a low level of pest presence on plants 

Some products allow the introduction of the wasps with the target insect to the growing area to support them even when the plants are not infested. But more generally, the wasps should be released when the host is present, and the infestation is mild.

Use insecticides that are selective and don’t harm parasitic wasps

Organophosphates such as malathion, disulfoton, and acephate are highly toxic to natural enemies. Carbaryl harms bees, natural enemies, and earthworms. Systemic neonicotinoids, such as imidacloprid, can be very toxic to bees and parasitic wasps, especially when applied to flowering plants. Pyrethroids, Afidopyropen, chlorantraniliprole, chlorpyrifos, dimethoate, fenpropathrin, methomyl, and thiamethoxam are toxic to parasitic wasps.

Less toxic insecticides are Potassium salts of fatty acids, Insecticidal oils, Microbial insecticides such as Bacillus thuringiensis and spinosad, and Botanical insecticides such as Pyrethrins and Azadirachtin.

Insect growth regulators such as pyriproxyfen and buprofezin are safe for parasitic wasps (but very toxic to beetles such as the vedalia beetle that can help in soft-scale insect control).

The persistence of the insecticides should be considered as well. While there are some whose effects will disappear after a few days, others will persist for months. For example, Carbaryl will have a bad effect on parasitic wasps for up to five months after the pesticide application.

Moth caterpillar killed by a braconid wasp parasitoid
Moth caterpillar killed by a wasp parasitoid

What are the disadvantages of the parasitoid wasps approach?

The negatives to parasitoids are the cost of purchasing them and the maintenance costs associated with keeping them alive in your garden or farm. Parasitoids do not harm your plants or crops, so you can use them without worrying about causing damage to the plants.

How to time the release of wasps?

The average lifespan for adults is around 1-2 weeks. It might be necessary to release more than once, depending on the size of the infestation.

Groups of parasitoid wasps

Ichneumonid wasps

This group of parasitoid wasps preys mainly on caterpillars of butterflies and moths

Ichneumonid wasps
Ichneumonid wasp

Braconid wasps

This group of parasitoid wasps attack caterpillars and a wide range of other insects, including greenflies and aphids. 

Braconid wasps
Braconid wasps

Chalcidoid wasps

This group of parasitoid wasps parasitizes eggs and larvae of greenfly, whitefly, cabbage caterpillars, and scale insects.

Examples of parasitoid wasps that are important to agriculture

Aphid wasp parasitoid

Aphid wasp parasitoid is an insect that feeds on aphids. It has a long, thin body with a black and yellow pattern. The female aphid wasp parasitoid lays her eggs inside the aphids. The eggs hatch inside the aphids, and the larvae feed on them until they are fully grown before emerging from their hosts as adult wasps.

The life cycle of an aphid wasp parasitoid starts with the egg stage, where females lay their eggs inside the bodies of aphids. This can happen in two ways: either through oviposition or ovipositor. Oviposition is when females lay eggs directly into the body of an aphid, whereas ovipositor is when they use a long tube-like organ to insert the eggs.

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Encarsia formosa

Encarsia formosa is a species of chalcidoid wasp. It is a commercially available parasitoid of greenhouse whitefly,

Scoliid wasp

Scoliid wasps are a family that feeds on beetles. The female finds the beetle grubs in the soil, and lays an egg on it. The young wasps feed on the beetle grub.

Anagyrus lopezi

Acts against cassava mealybugs. These insects can reduce crop yields by 60-80%. A successful preventative program was conducted in Thailand in which parasitic wasps were being reared by the millions and mass-released. A similar experiment was conducted in West Africa in the early 1980s. The result was a suppression of the pest population levels from more than 100 individuals on each cassava tip to fewer than 10-20.

Hyperparasitism wasps

Hyperparasites usually appear at the end of summer, when conditions are favorable for them and their host. Hyperparasites can disrupt the effectiveness of a biological control program. It is difficult to eliminate them, but you can minimize their population. Make sure to remove the parasitic wasps in late summer to remove the host of the hyperparasites.

Dendrocerus spp. and Alloxysta spp. attack Aphidius spp. You can know they are present by examining the exit hole in the aphid mummy.

Summary

In this article, we summarized the benefits of using parasitic wasps in agriculture. In practice, no biocontrol is perfect. Instead, a balance should be found between conventional insecticide applications and biocontrol. Greenhouses have been the domain of biocontrol for decades, even when chemical pesticide usage was on the rise. Partly thanks to the fact that the value of the crop is higher. In addition, greenhouses have a significant advantage as they function as a closed environment. Beneficial insects are going to stay inside. Recently biocontrols have become more prevalent in sectors such as floriculture, viticulture, and outdoor fruits. Track the number of wasps in the growing area and see what works best for you. When the control of different insects is needed, more wasps should be released, and the costs can be higher than conventional treatment. 

We are still in the early days, and robust protocols do not always exist. There is a need to start practicing it to gain knowledge. Join our community where we discuss such practices in a case-by-case manner, we are happy to support your experimentations and help you learn and improve.

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What you should know about monitoring NDVI in agriculture

Monitoring agricultural fields tracking progress, and spotting 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 worldwide with the aid of satellites, thus making monitoring simple and affordable. The most popular vegetation index used by farmers is the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index(NDVI); monitoring NDVI in agriculture can serve as an indicator of the health of plants.

What is NDVI, and why is it useful?

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 worldwide because it is accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Monitoring NDVI in agriculture for crop health screening has been around for decades. Still, it has only recently gained popularity due to the use of satellites and high-resolution aerial photography that provide frequent revisits. It gives an accurate estimate of plant biomass and leaf area index (LAI) without needing any ground data collection or manual interpretation.

How is NDVI calculated?

NDVI is calculated with the following formula: 

NDVI = (NIR-Red) / (NIR+Red)

Where NIR is near-infrared light and Red is the visible red light. NDVI values range from -1 to 1. Areas of sand, rock, or snow show values of 0.1 or less. Sparse vegetation such as senescing crops shows moderate NDVI values of between 0.2 to 0.5. High NDVI values of 0.6 to 0.9 correspond to dense vegetation.

How can I start monitoring the NDVI of my fields?

Monitoring fields becomes very simple, and it does not require prior knowledge. Apps like Agrio allow you to draw your fields on the map to start the monitoring process. Once the fields’ location is defined, you will receive frequent scans and interpretations.

How to analyze NDVI imagery?

By inspecting the NDVI scans, we can better understand the fields’ situation and spot places that might show stress. For example, examine the level of green in the image below, showing different stages of plant development in the various fields, and internal variation inside individual fields.

NDVI scans of wheat fields
NDVI scans of wheat fields

Notice the isolated green patches in the otherwise orange reading that indicates the development of weeds growth.

When comparing the NDVI scans of consecutive days, we can see spots that do not develop as expected and require immediate attention. For example, examine the image below and notice the red patches in fields that are in early development stages and therefore are expected to show an increase in the NDVI with time.

Track the daily changes in the NDVI scan
Track the daily changes in the NDVI scan

The limitations of NDVI in agriculture

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. Therefore, 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.

Chlorophyll plays a crucial role in photosynthetic processes such as light-harvesting; thus, the content of chlorophyll is a potential indicator of a range of stresses. Other spectral bands can detect chlorophyll functioning changes, such as the red-edge early on. This precedes the actual losses in leaf chlorophyll concentrations; therefore, monitoring such changes can be an early indicator for developing biotic and abiotic stress.

Why technology progress makes the selection of specific vegetation indices less critical?


Since we have become very skilled in teaching computers to identify patterns in a large amount of data, selecting a specific index is not essential. Instead, artificial intelligence can analyze the entire spectrum of reflected light and provide insights. In the old days, pre-engineered features were needed to train machines to classify patterns in the data. But these days are over, and we now know how to program the machine to pick the best features during the training process.

Vegetation indices are convenient when human experts are examining the scans. It is difficult for humans to make sense of a large amount of information encoded in the full spectrum. For that purpose, it is still useful to present specific indices that experts are familiar with. But the number of monitored acres and the high frequency of satellite revisits make it less desirable for growers and agronomists to do the analysis manually.

What started as a choice due to limitations became a convention in the industry.


Leveraging artificial intelligence to detect anomalies in satellite imagery

After discussing the benefits that can result from monitoring spectral 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. Even when individuals develop the expertise of examining the scans manually, the task becomes cumbersome when the number of acres that are covered is high.

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 entire spectrum of light that can be captured by satellite sensors contains interesting information when it comes to early stress detection.
The entire spectrum of light that can be captured by satellite sensors contains interesting information when it comes to early stress detection.

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 satellite scans in which it is known which of the field regions are diseased. We make fast progress as we can collect a large volume of high-quality data.

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 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 representing 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.

Summary

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

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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How to prevent plant fungal diseases

Experiencing poor crop yields due to plant fungal diseases such as downy mildew, rose black spots, or rust? Do not see this as a necessity of reality. Plant fungal diseases are becoming more and more prevalent as the climate changes. They cause significant economic losses and are challenging to deal with, but with the right approach, remarkable results can be achieved.

Did you find yourself again in the situation in which the plants show symptoms? You probably ask yourself what this disease is and how I should treat it. Unfortunately, many growers stop there. However, the most critical question to ask should be – how should I prevent it from happening next time.

In the ideal situation, growers should be able to apply fungicides before the disease starts to develop in the field. You might be tempted to spray when there is a slight doubt. However, excessive spraying is not economical and can cause unnecessary damage to plants. We have limited opportunities to apply preventative measures, so it’s better to be at the optimal time.

One condition that should be met before a decision to spray is made is the presence of spores in the field. However, the presence of the fungal spores on plants is not enough; the disease develops only when the weather conditions support that. 

Farmers find it difficult to monitor these conditions as it requires knowledge about the environmental conditions that can not be easily obtained. But fungicides applied when spores are not in the field or when weather conditions are not suitable for the disease development get wasted. In addition, such applications increase the risk of pesticide injury to the plants, are bad for the environment and growers’ health, and reduce the potential profits at the end of the season.

So how can you decide when it is time to spray? Let us dive a bit into the technicalities. By the end of this short article, you should be informed on how to time the preventative applications correctly.

How do plant fungal diseases develop?

Fungal spores are the first stage in the fungal life cycle and the mean by which fugal diseases spread. Their mobility helps them travel by riding other organisms or by traveling long distances carried by the wind. Once they land in a supportive environment, the spores germinate and form a mycelium. The mycelium provides nutrients to the spores and supports their growth.

As the mycelium grows, it may encounter another compatible fungus. The fungi cells merge into a single cell and then split into two cells, which results in mixed genetic information. This sexual reproduction ensures genetic diversity.

In some environmental conditions, most fungi can reproduce asexually. When it’s time to reproduce, instead of branching out and combining with another mycelium, they produce mitospores (Asexual spores) that look just like the parent. These then start a new cycle and grow a new mycelium.

Germination and reproduction of the spores initiate the disease. Pathogenic fungi can live inside plants or on their surfaces. They feed on the plant tissue and damage it.

In the stage where the spores were not germinated and infection was not started, protectants fungicides can be applied. Protectants can be used in healthy plants to prevent spores from growing or penetrating the host tissue. Some examples of protectants are mancozeb, chlorothalonil, and copper-based fungicides. After the disease is initiated, other fungicides should be applied to eradicate the fungi. These fungicides should have a different mechanism of action that disturb other processes that allow the fungus to develop and survive. Therefore, it is important to alternate between different fungicides. Utilizing different mechanisms of action help to prevent resistance development.

Philippa Uwins, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Fugal spores as can be seen in electronic microscope | Philippa Uwins, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spore traps can provide early warning of the spread of plant fungal diseases

How can you know if the spores were carried with the wind and arrived in your region? The direct way is to install spores traps in the fields. Agricultural spore traps are used to detect the presence of fungal spores in the air. They help farmers to take preventive measures against plant fungal diseases. Farmers should install the traps in good distribution in fields and send the air samples from the traps to the lab at a high enough frequency. The lab does a microscope analysis to quantify the spores and classify them.

The trap costs, maintenance overhead, and the need to send frequent samples to the labs might make it a non-practical practice. There are attempts to bring costs down and do the analysis in the field, but in the near future, growers might want to consider alternative approaches.

Airborne spores cause the spread of plant fungal diseases. Courtesy of Dr. Sahay
Airborne spores cause the spread of plant fungal diseases. Courtesy of Dr. Sahay

How can we learn about spores spread without installing expensive hardware?

Considering the obstacles that were discussed above, we can think of other ways to monitor the spread of spores. Plants can be thought of as spore traps, in the fields and around them. Gardens are excellent examples of places in which fungal diseases can get discovered first.

When spores land on plants and disease develops, the symptoms make it possible to identify the exact pathogen and save the need to do the lab testing. The region in which the disease is initiated is going to benefit less from the early warning but the fields around can. But actually, we can do better than that by modeling long-distance spread.

How far from the hot spot can such an observation be used as a warning? Once an area with an infestation is discovered, weather-based models can be used to predict the routes of spread of the spores by analyzing the wind direction and speed. By combining such predictions with actual observations on the ground, as the migration progresses, we can have a good understanding of the spores spread in real-time.

What are the weather conditions that support fungal disease development?

Weather variables such as temperature, humidity, and rainfall can help model the risk of spores germination and reproduction. When the optimal conditions persist for several uninterrupted hours during the day, the disease initiation is expected to happen. Each fungus should be modeled differently. Scientists arrive at such models by experimenting with the environmental conditions in a controlled environment. Growers and crop advisors can utilize such models to track the development of the fungi of interest in their fields.

With the ability to track the weather constantly and apply such models, an early warning system became possible. As discussed above, if the weather conditions are suitable but the spores are not present, an alert will cause unnecessary fungicide application. Therefore it is essential to wait for these two conditions to be met. With the aid of technology, and the ability to collect data globally, we managed to bring the predictive capabilities of this approach to an all-new level, and we made it easily accessible for you.

Summary

By considering the presence of the spores in remote areas, the wind variables, the presence of potential hosts in the route between your fields and the monitored remote regions, and the risk of spores germination and reproducing; we can provide an accurate map of the risks of many diseases across the globe. By using this approach, we can optimize the decision-making in fungicide applications without the need to install expensive hardware in fields. In Agrio we built a large community of farmers and gardeners that are monitoring their crops. The information that is being uploaded to the system, together with the identification of the plant problems, help us to see the big picture. We invite you to take advantage of this progress and increase your planning capabilities for better plant protection.

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Une application pour détecter les maladies et les parasites des plantes

L’inspection visuelle est un aspect important quand on parle de la santé des plantes. Les tests de laboratoire n’étant pas un outil pratique pour un diagnostic au jour le jour, en raison des coûts et du temps de rotation, les cultivateurs prennent leurs décisions sur la base des symptômes visibles sur les plantes. L’inspection des plantes prend du temps et laisse souvent les producteurs dans le doute. Les conseillers agricoles sont là pour aider les producteurs dans leurs prises de décision et s’assurer que les erreurs sont minimisées. Mais que faire en l’absence d’une telle assistance ? Heureusement, la technologie peut venir à la rescousse. Une application basée sur l’intelligence artificielle pour identifier les maladies des plantes est devenue possible grâce à la grande avancée en matière de performance réalisée par la communauté de recherche en intelligence artificielle. 

Ces dernières années, les produits basés sur des logiciels peuvent accomplir des tâches basées sur la vision avec une précision supérieure à celle des experts humains. Pourquoi ne pas alors appliquer cette technologie au conseil en agronomie ? La généralisation des appareils mobiles rend cette question encore plus pertinente, car ces appareils ont permis de distribuer une solution à grande échelle. Les agriculteurs et les cultivateurs à domicile peuvent désormais avoir un agronome à portée de main lorsqu’ils vont inspecter leurs plantes.

Agrio est une application Android et iOS développée à cet effet. Elle aide les cultivateurs à mieux gérer la protection des plantes. L’identification des maladies est un élément fondamental de la procédure de protection des plantes. La valeur ajoutée de l’application attire également d’autres catégories de personnes. Les cultivateurs à domicile à la recherche de conseils professionnels constituent une grande partie de la base d’utilisateurs, qui utilisent la fonction d’identification des maladies pour répondre à leurs besoins. Cela correspond à une tendance croissante des millennials qui utilisent la technologie pour aider à cultiver des aliments à la maison. En outre, Agrio suggère des traitements biologiques et organiques dans le cadre des protocoles de gestion intégrée des parasites, ce qui le rend encore plus approprié pour les jardiniers et les cultivateurs à domicile. Vous avez remarqué que les feuilles de tomates se recroquevillent dans votre jardin et vous êtes curieux de savoir quelle en est la cause ? Notre application peut le découvrir dès qu’elle voit l’image des symptômes.

Agrio | Une application qui identifie les maladies et les parasites des plantes
Agrio | Une application qui identifie les maladies et les parasites des plantes

Une application pour identifier les maladies des plantes et gagner du temps

Lors du repérage des cultures, l’identification instantanée évite de perdre du temps à identifier les problèmes et à enregistrer les résultats. En outre, les images enregistrées peuvent être inspectées par d’autres personnes et servir de référence à l’avenir. Les producteurs qui ont des difficultés à obtenir un diagnostic précis utilisent cet outil comme un assistant ou comme un moyen d’obtenir un deuxième avis en cas de doute. Cela est particulièrement important lorsque d’autres sources de conseils ne sont pas disponibles, comme dans les pays où le rapport entre le nombre de cultivateurs et d’agronomes est très élevé. 

Symptômes du Virus des feuilles jaunes en cuillère de la tomate
Symptômes du Virus des feuilles jaunes en cuillère de la tomate

Pourquoi est-il important d’identifier la cause du problème de manière précise ?

Chaque agent pathogène ou insecte nécessitera un traitement différent. En outre, les agents pathogènes peuvent développer une résistance à certains traitements dans certaines régions géographiques ; cette information doit être prise en compte lorsqu’un traitement est recommandé.

Lorsque les symptômes sont déjà observés dans la parcelle, une identification précise peut aider à prévenir la propagation. La stratégie sur les mesures à appliquer dépend de l’identification précise de la source du problème.

En ce qui concerne la prévention, les producteurs doivent tenir compte des implications pour les saisons suivantes. La rotation des cultures ou le traitement du sol peuvent être conseillés lorsqu’on s’attend à ce que le parasite survive dans le sol ou dans les débris végétaux. Dans le cas d’une maladie virale, il peut être conseillé de planter des variétés résistantes aux virus au cours des saisons suivantes, une fois que le virus ait été identifié dans la région. D’autres facteurs qui nécessitent une préparation du sol avant l’ensemencement sont un sol salin, un mauvais pH du sol, la présence de nématodes, etc. Dans tous les exemples ci-dessus, il est impératif d’obtenir une identification exacte du problème pour éviter des pertes futures.

Lorsqu'il s'agit de reconnaissance d'objets dans un environnement dense et encombré, les experts humains peuvent se tromper. Heureusement, l'intelligence artificielle peut être entraînée pour filtrer les distractions et fournir une identification et une classification rapides des zones importantes d'une image.
Lorsqu’il s’agit de reconnaissance d’objets dans un environnement dense et encombré, les experts humains peuvent se tromper. Heureusement, l’intelligence artificielle peut être entraînée pour filtrer les distractions et fournir une identification et une classification rapides des zones importantes d’une image.

Comment l’intelligence artificielle identifie-t-elle les maladies des plantes ?

L’état de l’art en matière de reconnaissance d’images repose sur le concept des réseaux de neurones artificiels. À l’instar de l’apprentissage des étudiants en agronomie, le réseau de neurones se voit présenter des exemples de plantes malades qui ont été marquées par des experts. Au cours du processus d’apprentissage, le réseau de neurones s’adapte jusqu’à ce qu’il maximise le score de performance. Le résultat est une application qui identifie les maladies des plantes et s’améliore constamment à mesure que d’autres exemples sont présentés. Sur la base des commentaires des cultivateurs et des observations effectuées dans les champs, Agrio apprend quels protocoles de traitement sont les plus efficaces. Un traitement qui n’a pas été efficace signale un problème possible d’identification et fournit au réseau de plus amples informations pour s’améliorer.

Pourquoi l’intelligence artificielle est la bonne approche

Il y a un manque massif de conseillers phytosanitaires qui entraîne 40 % de pertes de rendement. Le ratio agents de vulgarisation/agriculteurs est disproportionnellement bas et loin du ratio optimal de 1:50. L’accès à des conseils de qualité est encore moins disponible pour les cultivateurs amateurs. Avec l’aide de l’IA, nous pouvons proposer une solution de reconnaissance d’image gratuite qui peut combler cette lacune. Agrio analyse quotidiennement des milliers d’images, ce qui prendrait autrement des centaines d’heures d’experts humains, une alternative qui n’est pas économique. La solution n’est pas limitée à l’échelle et offre donc un moyen viable de soutenir les producteurs, d’améliorer la production alimentaire mondiale et de réduire la faim.

Les symptômes de différentes maladies peuvent sembler similaires, comment Agrio peut-il faire la différence ?

Les symptômes observés sur les différentes parties de la plante et les informations sur la géographie et la météo nous aident à différencier les problèmes. À l’instar du processus de diagnostic médical, l’application pose des questions aux cultivateurs pour les aider à établir le bon diagnostic si les informations fournies par les images sont incomplètes. Les symptômes observés sur les différentes parties de la plante et les informations sur la géographie et la météo nous aident à différencier les problèmes. À l’instar du processus de diagnostic médical, l’application pose des questions aux cultivateurs pour les aider à établir le bon diagnostic si les informations fournies par les images sont incomplètes.

Pourquoi les satellites et autres dispositifs de détection à distance ne suffisent-ils pas lorsqu’il s’agit de diagnostiquer avec précision les problèmes des plantes ?

La détection à distance est utile lorsque les cultivateurs veulent localiser les endroits exacts où les problèmes ont commencé. Mais les caméras montées sur des drones ou d’autres machines ne voient qu’un sous-ensemble des symptômes. Souvent, les symptômes observés sur le feuillage sont secondaires ; le problème réel peut se situer au niveau des tissus internes des tiges ou des racines. L’application indique au cultivateur les interventions nécessaires pour révéler la cause profonde du problème. En ce sens, il n’y a pas encore de bonne alternative à la présence sur le terrain.

Agrio peut-il apprendre à identifier les maladies des plantes qu’il ne détectait pas auparavant ?

L’application apprend en permanence. Lorsque les utilisateurs téléchargent des images qui ne peuvent être identifiées par l’intelligence artificielle, il existe une possibilité de partager les photos avec des experts humains. La correspondance entre le cultivateur et les experts est utilisée par l’intelligence artificielle pour apprendre. En conséquence, Agrio peut appliquer les compétences acquises auparavant pour maîtriser plus rapidement de nouvelles plantes.

Qu’est-ce qu’Agrio a appris à identifier jusqu’à présent ?

Les maladies et les insectes ravageurs constituent la majorité des problèmes auxquels nous sommes confrontés. Mais nous avons appris à connaître de nombreux autres facteurs de stress abiotique, comme les carences en nutriments, les toxicités, les facteurs environnementaux tels que le vent et la grêle, et bien d’autres encore. La capacité à distinguer le stress biotique du stress abiotique est importante et peut permettre d’éviter des applications de pesticides inutiles.

Application de diagnostic des plantes qui apprend en permanence
Application de diagnostic des plantes qui apprend en permanence

Quelles sont les utilisations de cette technologie dans la ferme futuriste ?

À l’avenir, la technologie de la vision par ordinateur sera essentielle dans les fermes autonomes. Dans de telles installations, l’identification automatique des maladies sera cruciale.

Résumé

Agrio est une application qui identifie les maladies des plantes et sert d’agronome personnel pouvant être transporté dans la poche. Nous mettons un système d’aide à la protection des plantes révolutionnaire à la disposition de tout cultivateur possédant un smartphone. Rejoignez-nous dès aujourd’hui et participez à ce voyage passionnant.

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An Albanian agricultural development expert shares his thoughts on precision agriculture

We met Aurel Grabocka in 2020 when he expressed interest in Agrio and got inspired by his enthusiasm for making agriculture better. We had wonderful conversations with him in which we learned about the agriculture scene in Albania and his ideas on how to improve it. We invited him to share his experience with precision agriculture, challenges, and his hopes for the future.

Tell us a bit about yourself, and your experience with agriculture. What kind of services do you provide to growers?

I have a master’s degree as an advisor and trainer for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

In 1998 I founded the Regional Development Agency (SME) of Korce, Albania. I am the founder and CEO of RDA Korca since then. It is an NGO.

Mainly, RDA Korca is known as a consulting agency for SMEs and local governments and is a leader in the development of business plans and feasibility studies for SMEs. It has been also a supporter of startups in the region.

Since 2019, supported by two EU projects, we have developed and are working on smart agriculture and regenerative agriculture. Especially we are developing extension agriculture services based on Agriculture 4.0. 

Korca region is one of the most important producers of apples in Albania and we are working to support apple producers in producing high-quality apples. Through smart agriculture applications like Agrio, we support them to use inputs in a smart way and minimize the use of pesticides and insecticides. At the same time, we are cooperating with innovative agronomists to change the nutrition of the orchards and increase their immunity. 

The Objective is to enhance Korca’s farmers by increasing the quality competition of Korca’s apples. 

An agricultural development expert examining an apple tree

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

We are a small team of three full-time people. Their responsibility is to train farmers on how to use smart applications like Agrio and team with them to improve the production on their orchards.

The Agronomist supports them in improving the nutrition of the orchards based on the data from weather stations, disease models, smart agriculture applications, and SAP analyzes. 

We hire experts based on the requests and needs of our farmers.

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

Apple orchards suffer from a lot of diseases and insects. In the past farmers managed plant protection based on assumptions and by cooperating with each other. They were spraying based on their experience and having the same calendar every year. As a result, the use of pesticides and insecticides has been increasing every year.

In the last two years, we have introduced disease models based on data from the weather stations. At the same time, we are introducing Agrio as an application that supports farmers in their decisions to protect their crops from insects and pests. 

Our main approach is to support farmers through Agrio and regenerative agriculture practices based on SAP analyses. The route to take samples for SAP analyses is based on the indicators and indices offered by Agrio.

How did you come across Agrio?

Agrio has been suggested to us by a German expert that visited our farms. He suggested this application as a great tool to improve the protection of the orchards from pests and insects. After using it for some days I had an online meeting with Mr. Nessi Benishti who is the CEO of Agrio. Since then we have increased the cooperation, testing, and working with the tool. We are looking to go even deeper into this cooperation.

Recently, we have started to create Teams to support farmers through the platform. It is very interesting and helpful. Farmers find many beneficial services just by using their smartphones.

A seminar on disease and pest identification in apple trees

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

We are looking to increase the cooperation with Agrio and at the same time develop the network of farmers. Agrio has a great option of teamwork and cooperating with the farmers and experts on the same platform. At the same time, we can have the support of Agrio experts that support us very fast and with great quality advice.

We are looking to cover all of Albania with our extension services. In the near future, we will have a call to ask experts to join us through the platform and to support farmers with advice.

How the satellite scanning changes the way you understand the orchards’ situation? 

Agrio offers a lot of functions to check the health of the orchards by scanning with satellites. It is easy to compare the images of the satellites, check on graphs how the vegetation is doing, and develop the crop scouting route to visit the areas which represent a decrease in the indicators. It offers the possibility to cooperate with the team, exchange ideas and notes, and check the quality of the work.

Through the satellite images, the farmer knows exactly the location where to check and find out in advance if something is wrong with his crops.

Can you describe a particular case in which Agrio helped you detect a pest or a disease? How is the app helping you with your work? 

Agrio team assists us without request on areas that show a decrease in the indicators. They send to us the location and with the help of the smartphone GPS location, we go to the exact location and check for the problems. In this case, after we send the pictures related to the problems, first there were doubts about nematodes on the roots. After digging and discovering the roots, we have seen that there were no signs of nematodes. So, we continued to check the tree and we found prionus apple root borer. After showing through pictures of the stem borer and after the experts of Agrio helped us to identify it, we received their suggestions for the treatment. After applying the treatment, we saw that the vegetation indicators for this field are increasing, and the trees are doing very well.

Precision agriculture applied to early disease and pest detection in the orchard
Detection of pest infestation in an orchard with the aid of satellite imagery

What is the dynamic in the community of growers in your region? What is the level of interest in precision agriculture solutions? 

We have more than two years of promoting precision agriculture and testing it. It is moving and growing but still, it is slow and difficult. Farmers have a lot of difficulties and lack the resources and knowledge to apply precise agriculture. 

What do you wish for in the future?

We wish to increase the community of farmers that use precise agriculture and improve the quality of their products. We want to decrease the use of pesticides and insecticides and provide healthy food for people. We wish to regenerate soil on our farms and produce dense crops and fruits full of vitamins and proteins.

Anything else that you would like to add?

We are changing the existing agriculture practices and we hope that farmers will change on a great scale. 

Public institutions, local governments, and universities need to support and develop smart agriculture to change the existing theories and practices. Especially public servants and academia of agriculture departments in the universities must increase their knowledge of precision agriculture and start moving from conventional agriculture to regenerative agriculture.

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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 to help shape the future of agriculture. We invited him to discuss plant protection, and 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.

Plant protection made simpler with the aid of remote sensing

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 and practice plant protection? 

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 and protect your plants? 

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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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.

Aphids on cannabis leaf
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

Red spider mites are small arthropods that 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.

Leafminer damages on cannabis leaf
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.

Thrips damages to cannabis leaves
Thrips damages to 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 help to 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. Such information can allow them to detect plant stress early before damages are becoming substantial.

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 early 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.

The red-edge spectrum and early plant stress detection

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 to be the most sensitive to disease symptoms and could serve as a leading indicator when it comes to detecting plant stress early.

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.

Typical plant light reflectance
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.

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

Monitor fields with the Agrio smartphone application
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.

Corn tasseling
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.

Identification of the tasseling stage based on satellite monitoring
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.

Corn rootworm
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.

Armyworm
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.

European Corn Borer damages
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.

Rust disease symptoms on corn leaf
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.

Northern leaf blight disease symptoms on corn leaf
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.

Eyespot disease symptoms on corn leaf
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, integrated pest management (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 Integrated pest management 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.

Shot hole disease
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.

Rust symptoms on peach leaf
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.

Powdery mildew symptoms on peach fruits
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.

Peach leaf curl
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 in stone fruit trees 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 in apple orchards will include integrated pest management (IPM) 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.

Powdery mildew of apple
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).

Apple scab
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.

Codling moth
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 in apple orchards 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. Integrated pest management in apple orchards 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 farmers need to know about pesticide weather considerations

The importance of pesticide weather considerations

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. Pesticide weather considerations play a huge role in pesticide 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 weather factors that affect pesticides are temperature, wind, precipitation, and humidity. The worst weather conditions for applying pesticides 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. The degradation of pesticides can increase 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.

Delta T and preferred spraying conditions
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 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 washout in some instances and increase pesticide washout 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.

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

Track field Interventions
Track field Interventions

Summary

Pesticide weather considerations should be taken seriously before planning spraying applications. 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 farm management

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 for farm management, and to access information from the cloud, while crop advisors can use this data as well 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.

Agrio | collaborative app for farm management

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 and farm management. 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.

Daily briefing screen
Daily briefing screen
Biofix requirements
Biofix requirements
Treatment instructions
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

Colorado potato beetle | weather-smart treatment plan
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, the weather is one of the key factors for a successful yield. A hyperlocal 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 fieldwork 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 hyperlocal weather forecasts 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. 

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.
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.

Weather-wise 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.

Hyperlocal weather forecast for better 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.

Hyperlocal weather forecast

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, hyperlocal weather forecast 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
Weather forecast

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)

Beetroot is an example of a feeder crop
Beetroot is an example of a feeder crop

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 favorable 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 in 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 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 of eradicating the problem. 

The colorado potato beetle
The colorado potato beetle

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 the 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 the 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 incentivize 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 legumes 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
Alfalfa fixes nitrogen in the soil
Alfalfa fixes nitrogen in the soil

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 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 to monitor crops and assess 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 of your crop 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 cloud interference and track the changes in the fields more closely.

Early detection of plant disease based on the chlorophyll index
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.

Compare subsequent satellites scans to monitor progress
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 monitoring your crop.

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

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Precision agriculture made easy

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.

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. More detailed case studies can be found in the following links: monitoring apple orchards, and monitoring guava orchards.

To give you some intuition on the process let’s refer to the figure above. Regions in which the vegetation is lower compared to other parts in the field might indicate that there is a problem, scouting might be needed in these field regions to further investigate the cause. Use the Agrio smartphone application to upload images of the symptoms you find during your tour. 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 in a 3-5 days resolution.

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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 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. 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 an artificial intelligence-based integrated pest management tool that helps 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.

Artificial intelligence-based integrated pest management tool for farming organizations

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 artificial intelligence-based 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 of the crop protection activities within their organizations. Workgroup allows farming organizations to manage plant protection activities on a large scale.