Greenhouse Growers Use Remote Sensing Technology to Optimize IPM
Researchers at the University of California Davis (UC Davis) are employing advanced camera systems to detect pest infestations early in greenhouse crops, with an ultimate goal of developing a precise, practical and affordable plant stress detection system for use in IPM systems. The technology works by observing the differences in light reflectance in greenhouse plants to detect arthropod infestations, pathogenic infections, nutrient deficiencies and salt stresses.
The technology operates on a simple principle: pest-induced stress creates small changes in the physiological processes of a plant which create changes in how the leaves of the plant reflect light. These are not detectable by the human eye, but can be measured easily via an advanced camera system. These cameras, mounted on pre-existing rails or pipes within a greenhouse, can easily move over the entire surface area of the crop, surveying its health. Changes in reflectance can be used both for detection of potential stressors and for identification of the stressor based on the degree of reflective change. The high-efficiency technology detects very slight changes in the plants, alerting growers to pest infestations still in their infant stages.
To demonstrate the efficacy of their system, the UC Davis team conducted a study in which the camera system monitored a treatment group of flowering gerbera plants that were subjected to two-spotted spider mites, and one subjected to a Lygus bug infestation. Spider mites have developed resistance to many commercially available miticides, and biological control agents are ineffective if they are released too late or too early, therefore early detection is critical for effective control. The study found clearly detectable, measurable differences between the reflectance of the two treatment groups and a control group. The UC Davis team has further studies planned with other plants and other pests.
Because the monitoring system creates large volumes of data that require considerable data processing and analysis, the team is also working on developing a lighting system for the prototype, which will enable monitoring of plants at night and processing of data by morning.
The UC Davis team is "convinced that robotics and remote sensing will revolutionize greenhouse operations," and notes that private industry and universities worldwide are currently at work developing similar systems using the same technology.