Digital monitoring and decision tools

Computers and other electronic tools are very much a part of IPM monitoring. Geographic Information Systems and Global Positioning Systems allow very precise mapping of areas. These devices, when used with soil mapping and yield monitors, are part of a system called “Precision Agriculture”.

Precision agriculture includes the use of technology such as remote sensing and geo-referenced crop scouting (to measure crop vigor or quality and disease), yield monitors (to show yield variation), and crop and pest modeling. Precision applications of products to manage pests are often more effective than conventional methods and require less pesticide. Yield monitors and site-specific crop quality data provide a report card on how effective the crop production products and management tactics were. For example, a disease forecasted to be active by weather monitoring and potential level of infestation can then be used as the basis for a variable rate fungicide application and provide decision support for various production practices, such as rootstock selection, fertilization and irrigation.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are databases that store the relationship between data collected and their locations. A GIS combines digital mapping, database functions and spatial analysis.

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) is a U.S. space-based system that provides reliable positioning, navigation, and timing service worldwide.

An example of a practical IPM use of these devices is as follows.

  • The GPS system is used to map blacklight trap locations in agricultural areas used to monitor for crop pests. (The GPS units are accurate to within 10 feet.)
  • The trap counts are collected and entered into a spreadsheet/database which is linked to the GIS software.
  • The GIS software is used to create a map of the counts.
  • The maps are shared with growers in the community by sending a newsletter, fax, email or an Internet web page.

Mapping the trap counts is useful for predicting where and when a pest will be arriving. Additionally, the pest maps can be overlaid with weather maps that will help predict pest movement and the likelihood of damage to crops.

Weather and Climate Monitoring can be used to predict pest infestations or susceptible life stages. Variables like humidity or growing degree days can help forecast disease outbreaks like late blight disease in potatoes or crawler stages of scale insects so that pesticides can be applied at the most appropriate time to protect the plant.

Weed Mapping can be used to monitor weed population changes and the efficacy of weed management methods.

Spreadsheets  can be used to gather observations into one location. Monitoring data should be recorded and include information such as date, time, trap location, number of pests present, and any other pertinent environmental information, along with pest control measures taken. It is important that locations are understood when associated with data. This process can be as high-tech or as low-tech as preferred – including drawing a simple map of the farm, urban structure, or other locations with numbers. Data should be analyzed over time, location and across other factors that might be important. 

Cameras should be used often to collect observations in both video and photo format. Observations should be time and location stamped when possible (a smartphone makes this easy!) for future reference.

Decision support tools and area wide pest monitoring networks 

While spreadsheets and stand-alone photo collections can work on a small scale to inform decisions, more benefit can be gained through participation in areawide pest monitoring networks (see Resources for examples) using tailored data collection software.  These systems are frequently optimized for scout-centric workflows and provide visualizations and indications that clearly indicate what management actions are appropriate while also giving perspective on what people in similar situations are finding (see IPM Resources for examples).

  1. What is IPM?
  2. Why Practice IPM?
  3. Pest Identification
  4. The PAMS Approach
  5. Monitoring
    1. Insect monitoring traps
    2. Digital monitoring and decision tools
  6. Suppression
  7. IPM Resources
  8. IPM Quiz