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Technology could be future boon for kiwifruit growers

25 July, 2013

Technology could be future boon for kiwifruit growers

A new online system is being developed that might one day help kiwifruit growers make decisions on when to spray orchards for pests and diseases. The system is in the early stages of development in a joint project between the University of Waikato and Plant & Food Research (PFR).

The web-based tool is should help reduce time and costs associated with pest monitoring in kiwifruit orchards and spray application.

The current process of physically monitoring pest levels is time consuming, says University of Waikato summer research scholarship student Michael Fowke.
“Spraying is a necessary exercise for growers and a lot of time is spent trying to identify when or whether spraying is needed,” he says. “It will need a lot more testing in the field but potentially this system could cut that time down considerably.”

With a web-based service, growers would not have to check orchard pest levels by hand but could simply enter a grower ID and orchard block name to receive a spray/no spray/keep monitoring decision onscreen.

“We added bulk capacity to the system so that advice on spraying could be generated on a large number of orchard blocks at once, which would be particularly useful for pack houses who manage a large number of orchards,” Michael says.

“It will be a web service that growers can log in to, so it saves them from having to store large quantities of information and having to run software on their own computer.”

The system works by accessing past spray and monitoring data for each orchard block and predicts current pest levels. It then gives the grower a spray/no spray/keep monitoring decision. It could also be used to assist growers to plan their spray programme for the season and make better decisions on what to spray based on what worked best for insect control in their region.

Michael’s work on the project, through a Summer Research Scholarship from the University, was to design an internet-based service that would allow a spray decision support system to be delivered to growers in a fast, easy and practical way.

“It was great to be involved, to be connected to the real world and get experience working with industry and seeing what issues they have,” he said.

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