We have seen major advances in digital tools for forecasting pests, diseases and weeds in crops over recent years and further technological developments promise a new era of more sophisticated tools is on the way.
Advances in our ability to capture and analyse vast amounts of data have dramatically enhanced the potential for so-called decision support tools, offering farmers and agronomists ways to better target spray timings and product choice.
Drone or tractor-mounted hyperspectral cameras to detect latent disease before symptoms are visible, diagnostic tools, in-field weather recording and web-based apps for predicting pests risk are just some examples being developed. Agrii is involved with several projects, as will be discussed during the CropTec crop protection seminar.
No matter how accurate any computer model is, none will ever replace the experience and knowledge farmers and agronomists have. Indeed, decision support tools are not designed to replace this human element, but to support it by reducing the uncertainty involved in any decision-making process and provide a better insight into what’s happening in crops.
Models can provide real-time warnings of pest or disease pressure, allowing farmers to inspect crops or specific areas of fields and determine whether curative or protectant action is required.
Furthermore, with increasing focus on integrated pest and disease management (IPM), decision support tools perform a key role by providing better insights for informed and risk-based decisions, thus providing evidence to justify the rationale behind any remedial action and compliance with IPM principles.
To be effective tools must be location-specific, timely, easy to use and accessible. Most importantly these tools need to deliver value and provide benefits, such as optimisation of input and crop performance.
There are still some challenges to meeting these goals, especially when it comes to timeliness and data connectivity in rural areas. Also, extracting value and insight from the vast amount of data that can be captured on-farm remains a major challenge.
Technology and analytics capabilities are constantly evolving though, so I’m confident many hurdles will be overcome and the next five years will see exciting new tools available for farmers and agronomists.
Francesca will be speaking at the Crop Protection sessions sponsored by Belchim
Chaired by vocal farmer and NFU vice-president, Guy Smith, the future will be the focus. The other speakers in the session are:
- Emma Hamer, senior plant health adviser, NFU will tackle crop protection and the novel solutions pipelines – addressing the question we are all interested in: what does the future hold for crop protection in the UK?
- Application specialist Tom Robinson, will give us a valuable insight into the latest on nozzle section, closed transfer systems and other ways to speed up spraying;