In-field identification app saves on costly pesticides

CARMAN, Man. — There are about 350 different types of leafhoppers in Manitoba. But only two of them, the aster leafhopper and potato leafhopper, cause economic damage to commercial crops in the province.

Since it’s a waste of money to spray a pesticide on non-menacing insects, and not great for the insects either, it’s critical for producers to identify pests that are a genuine threat to crop yield.

That’s why University of Manitoba entomologists and Agriculture Canada experts are developing a smartphone app to identify crop pests.

“The University of Manitoba has done a lot of work with that app. It’s being field tested right now,” said John Gavloski, a Manitoba Agriculture entomologist who hosted a session on insect identification at the Crop Diagnostic School held earlier this summer in Carman.

The website for the app at mobile-ipm.com/ describes the product as a mobile integrated pest management tool for wheat and canola. The app will be available for free on the Android and iOS platforms, hopefully by 2018.

Jordan Bannerman, a U of M entomology instructor, said students in the university’s diploma in agriculture program are testing the app this summer.

“For things like caterpillars, bertha armyworms … it’s useful to have a reference right there at your fingertips,” he said. “If you’re out … and you find what you suspect what might be aster leafhopper, for example, you would be able to look up a good, high resolution image of a aster leafhopper…. The app basically functions as a photographic guide for common pests.”

A U of M poster explaining the app says in addition to insect identification, it will eventually feature an identification tool for weeds, a forecasting tool for crop pests and information on how to manage an insect, weed or crop disease problem.

“The app also includes information about economic thresholds and scouting techniques,” Bannerman said.

The app should be a useful resource for growers but it won’t be a silver bullet solution, Gavloski said. Certain insects are extremely small and will be difficult to identify with an app.

“(It) would work well for some of our common crop pests,” he said. “Where it might have trouble is the parasites because a lot of the parasitic wasps are tiny and can look alike…. You do need magnification to appreciate the differences.”

For more information on the app, go to www.mobile-ipm.com/# aboutUs.

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