Expansion of risk forecasting service will provide real-time data for sustainable pest and disease management

Fera’s CropMonitor in partnership with the Crop Health and Protection Centre (CHAP) and supported by Innovate UK, is currently being extended to form a new national capability in decision support.

The SMART Decision Support Service will use CropMonitorTM as the core platform to deliver risk forecasts for pests and diseases of wheat, barley, oilseed rape and potatoes, using a bespoke weather monitoring network, national pest and disease surveillance data and advanced risk models. The service will enable farmers and growers to make informed decisions based on a wealth of information that could lead to reduced costs and increased yields.

Currently in its pilot phase, the project is building up a wealth of data before the service becomes subscription-based in March 2019.

Based near York, UK, Fera working with UK and international partners, governments and other public bodies, uses original thinking to innovate and deliver translational science that will protect and enhance food, plants, animals and the environment.

UK farmers are facing unprecedented challenges in sustainable disease and pest management including optimising pesticide use and minimising waste. Fera is ensuring that the decision support platform will be a reliable resource to help meet these challenges by monitoring untreated varieties of wheat, oilseed rape and barley across 30 sites with a Met station and insect and spore traps at each site to gather data for validation of over 40 risk forecasting models.

The real-time data will provide information that can be used to inform decisions on when and where to spray on a preventative basis.  The SMART Decision Support Service will also have access to the latest data on fungicide resistance, via an interactive search facility. It will provide farmers with the most comprehensive information possible to enable them to make a decision on treatment that avoids the overuse of pesticides and is appropriate to current risk levels. This will have a positive impact on farms’ costs and yields, as well as the environment.

Advancements to in-field diagnostics, which are featured in the spore trap device employed in monitoring operations, can highlight when there is disease present even before symptoms first appear – this could be as much as four weeks prior to symptoms occurring.

There will be tier of engagement in the system, which will drive the pricing model. If a farmer has equipment such as a weather station, they can link it into the platform and benefit from a reduction of subscription cost as they will be helping to deliver more data into the system.

Future developments include producing an API to enable CropMonitorTM to feed into existing software, making it as easy as possible for farmers to view the information.

Dr Judith Turner, Principal Plant Pathologist at Fera and lead on the SMART Decision Support Service, said: “Farmers have for a long time benefitted from surveillance services that provide data on crop health, but typically these data are often available at the end of the season so can only be used to make risk estimates for the future crop, which could be impacted by a range of other factors. The benefit of the SMART Decision Support Service is that it provides information in a clear way that can be interpreted in real-time in order to enable decisions on crop treatments to be made immediately”.

“We’re releasing new updates to the service throughout the next nine months, so farmers and agronomists are being invited to register now, to have access to the latest analysis and be in the know about new features as they become available.”

With more than 100 years’ experience in delivering pest and disease identification services to a wide range of commercial growers and Government departments, both in the UK and overseas, Fera understands the needs of its customers.

Fera is driven by a need to address important global issues, such as sustainably and safely feeding a growing population. Fera uses its original thinking to develop early stage detection to support its partners in solving the big issues facing the agri-food industry.

 

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.