The development of a computerised tool to recognise night-time crop pests has been highlighted by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.
A team, led by Harper Adams Lecturer in Entomology and Intergrated Pest Managment Dr Joe Roberts, took a commercially available pitfall trap and turned it into a computerised detection device. The tool was designed to find nocturnal pests.
These can use the cover of darkness to escape human detection, with their presence causing damage to crops which is then not discovered until it is too late to prevent.
Developing the device, the Harper Adams team used vine weevils – which have featured in a range of research being carried out by the University’s Integrated Pest Management and Entomology teams.
Using a pitfall trap fitted with a computerised sensor, the team trained their computer to recognise the beetle - taking almost 1,500 images of insects in the process.
In their blog, AHDB note: “With a track record of investment in precision solutions for agriculture and horticulture, the team at Harper Adams University was well placed to create a tool that was effective and low-cost.”
While further work is needed to make the technology ready for commercialisation, the team’s work - part of an AHDB/BBSRC partnership that aims to support the agricultural transition to net zero – could lead to a refined tool will calculate pest populations and let growers know when control is required.