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New App Could Be A Game Changer To Identify And Diagnose Pests

Researchers at Iowa State University have developed a new app that really could become a game changer for the farming industry. This new app will not only help farmers detect which insect pests are present in their fields, but it will also offer recommendations on how to control them!

“It is the first of its kind in the sense we are trying to cater to the needs of farmers by putting these management practices or strategies linked with insect detection,” says Arti Singh, assistant professor in the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University.

“They go into the field, they take a picture, and in real time, it tells them which insect it is, whether it’s a beneficial insect of if it’s a harmful insect,” she says. “It also gives them the scientific name and common name of the insect.”

Currently, the app is able to identify about 2,000 insects. Their goal is to double the capacity of the app next year, so it will be able to detect and diagnose over 4,000 pests. Artificial intelligence is what drives the growth of the app.

“We use a concept called deep learning, which is the subset of artificial intelligence, where we collect these images, and we pass it through a network, if you will, and the network is essentially extracting all different kinds of features of the images and then making a decision on which insect class it belongs to,” says Baskar Ganapathysubramanian, a professor associate chair for Research Mechanical Engineering, Iowa State University.

The app will have to process an enormous amount of data in order to make a proper identification.

Ganapathysubramanian says that some pests may require over 100,000 images, while other insects may only require about 20 photos.

Pest identification can be very difficult, even for the best of entomologists. For example, there are some beetles that look very similar, but they actually belong to different classes. Is the beetle you’re looking at a member of the “beneficial-insect class”, is it a member of the “harmful-pest class”, or is it an “invasive species”? A farmer needs to know the right answer so he or she can handle the situation correctly. The wrong answer could result in an entire crop being destroyed.

This is why the development of this new app is such important news.

   “We don’t know about these new crops and which insect pests or diseases can be a problem,” said Singh. “If we have this library of insect pests, and we can use the smartphone app to identify in a timely way and mitigate, I think this will be a game changer for farmers.”