Crop Disease Sensors

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Sensor-Software Device Could Help Farmers to Protect Crops

The Engineer (United Kingdom) (06/23/11) Andrew Czyzewski

New sensor and software technology has been designed in the United Kingdom for detecting plant pathogens. The system uses online software to gather geographical data in real time on weather conditions and logged incidences of pathogen infection. The technology then uses mathematical models to predict the likelihood of the presence of a certain pathogen in the vicinity of a farmer's field. The device is similar to a pregnancy test, says Worcester University professor Roy Kennedy, the system's lead developer. "It's semi-quantitative in that you can put the test device into a digital reader and look at the reading in relation to a calibration curve, which tells you how many [active spores] are in the air," he says. In a trial of the technology, farmers also will use a simple test kit that can confirm the presence of a particular pathogen. "We have several of these devices, each set up for different pathogens that affect different crops in the U.K.--and we're looking to detect these in the air before they infect the crop," Kennedy says.

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