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Pest Monitoring

DeMilia Research LLC is taking the initiative to rejuvenate research on plant pest data collection and modeling. The DeMilia Research Farm is the first such research facility dedicated solely to the comprehensive testing of plant pest models and it is expected to make a significant contribution to such research. Practices and procedures must first be developed for the measurement of plant disease pest populations. Techniques for obtaining reliable, consistent, and reproducible measurements of plant disease pest ecology, pathogenesis, and crop damage need to be determined. Virtually all of the plant disease forecast models in existence were developed in isolation for a specific plant disease on a single host crop. It is essential that any unified computer system of plant disease forecast models deliver their results in a consistent manner that is readily understandable to the user. Otherwise, it is likely that farmers, home gardeners, and even agricultural researchers might misinterpret forecasts from different models and make poor pest management decisions. It is hard enough to fully comprehend the impact of a particular measurement of a single plant disease level on a crop host plant. Never mind having to understand the results from several measurement techniques of multiple plant diseases on different crops using varying scales of measurement. Measurement techniques would need to be normalized for consistency among plant diseases. As a result, the system that we are studying is not a single plant disease, but rather a myriad of plant diseases on a multitude of host crops.

The first phase of this project will be evaluating existing field scouting, disease surveillance, plant disease pest identification, and plant pathogen culturing techniques for individual crops. Scientific research articles, periodicals, agricultural extension publications, agricultural text books, farmers manuals, gardening books, and online information serve as the reference material searched for determining the specific methods and procedures used for each plant disease. The best techniques for obtaining quantitative and qualitative measurements of plant disease pest ecology, pathogenesis, and crop damage will be determined. A wide variety of qualitative assessments, scoring techniques, and direct empirical measurements will be used. An array of plant pathogen monitoring and plant disease measuring devices will be employed including spore traps, selective media, bioassays, immunoassays, image analysis software, etc. Statistical sampling techniques will be used when a population of interest cannot be readily measured in its entirety. In addition to direct quantitative and qualitative measurements of crop damage, crop loss assessment models and economic thresholds will be employed to estimate the impact of a plant disease. Statistical analyses comparing plant disease pest population monitoring techniques for individual crops will be conducted.

The second phase of this project will be modifying existing and developing new techniques to such that they are consistent as possible across crops. The third phase of this project will be verifying the accuracy and repeatability of techniques and normalizing measurements among plant diseases. The final phase of this project is to incorporate the data collected and techniques developed into the DemiAg expert system knowledge bases. This research will also provide immediate essential knowledge for the experimental trials being conducted on the DeMilia Research Farm. DeMilia Research LLC will also be conducting a separate simultaneous project that examines microclimate effects on plant pathogen populations using the data collected in this project. This research is unprecedented in its attempt to normalize measurements of so many different plant diseases across so many different crops such that they are relatable. The comparison of measurement across crops is likely to generate questions about long established techniques for the measurement of certain plant diseases. It is not expected that such a complex problem can be solved with this project. Rather, the purpose is to simply generate a useable starting point that can be used in computer software and serve as the focal point of future research.

A single-family farm in North Carolina cannot provide all the data needed to be incorporated into DemiAg for the entire country, never mind other parts of the world. DemiAg is being designed such that farmers and home gardeners from across the country and eventually around the world can submit data on the effectiveness of individual plant pest model forecasts in their geographic area and enhance its knowledge base. Regular field scouting for plant pests is an important crop management practice that should be done by most commercial growers. If just a fraction of this information was captured and statistically analyzed, it could provide an unprecedented real time view of plant disease populations throughout the country and eventually the world. DemiAg Tag is a software app under development that utilizes the geotagging capabilities of smartphones and tablet computers. Eventually, a plant disease alert system that would be readily available online to farmers, home gardeners, and agricultural researchers could be developed by integrating it into DemiAg. These plant disease alerts based upon actual post-infection observations would later be supplemented with plant disease model pre-infection predictions.

Coming in the future. We need to get pest monitoring equipment before we can conduct this research. We appreciate any donations towards our farm infrastructure.

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