Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A new smart phone application developed by U of G researchers makes its debut at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock

photo credit: redrhinolondon via Flickr

GUELPH, Ontario September 13, 2011 - University of Guelph News Release - Farmers can use the app – Aphid Advisor – to decide whether or not to use insecticide to control aphids on soybeans, based on numbers of aphids and their natural enemies.

The app was developed by Prof. Rebecca Hallett, School of Environmental Sciences (SES); Tracey Baute, a field crop entomologist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA); and Christie Bahlai, a U of G grad student in environmental biology. It’s based on research conducted in SES and the Department of Plant Agriculture.

As night-time temperatures cooled in late August, the number of soybean aphids (Aphis glycines) in eastern Ontario rapidly increased and was also expected to rise in central and southern Ontario. Without enough lady beetle predators, soybean aphids can overwhelm plants, causing premature flower drop, stunted stems and fewer seeds. Prolonged exposure to high pest densities can seriously lower crop yields.

Said Hallett,

“The soybean aphid is an alien invasive insect that can take an economic toll on soybean farming, but most soybean agro-ecosystems in Ontario have a rich abundance of natural enemies that can reduce aphid population growth.

“Aphid Advisor helps raise awareness of the powerful role that beneficial insects, such as predatory beetles and parasitic wasps, can have in controlling soybean aphid populations. The app may help to reduce or even eliminate insecticide applications for soybean aphid control.”

In the field, farmers can use the app’s high-quality photographs to help identify natural aphid enemies.

Information and demonstrations of the Aphid Advisor will be available at COFS. Canada’s largest agricultural trade show will open Tuesday.

Now undergoing final testing, Aphid Advisor is currently available only for the BlackBerry.

Hallett plans to adapt the app for other devices.

“It's very exciting to see a piece of research through from the lab and field into the hands of end users in this way,” she said. “In the next phase of development, we hope to include site-specific temperature forecasts, which will give a more accurate picture of how aphid populations might change and would also allow the app to be used in areas outside of southern Ontario.”

The research was funded by the Agri-Food and Rural Link. The app was programmed by Agnition, a local company in mobile farming applications. The pilot version of the app is now available for BlackBerry devices (OS 5 or higher) and can be downloaded free at www.aphidapp.com.

COFS brings together industry partners that are enthusiastic about opportunities to work with the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) faculty and students. At COFS, the OAC will offer an introduction to recent initiatives. Teachers and prospective students interested in agriculture and food issues are invited to visit the OAC exhibit.

Known as the nation’s premier outdoor agricultural trade show, COFs, which runs through Sept. 15 at Canada’s Outdoor Park, features 715 exhibitors showcasing the latest agricultural products and services. More information about COFS is available online.

Watch the COFS 2011 video...

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