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New app tracks insect populations

Justin Davey 02/13/2013 @ 10:00am

MyTraps.com, the Web-based pest management program produced by Spensa Technologies Inc. of West Lafayette, Indiana, could help farmers and consultants track insect populations to better control crop damage caused by pests and reduce the amount of insecticides released into the environment.

"Safely controlling insect populations is one of the biggest dilemmas facing crop growers and agricultural consultants," said Johnny Park, president and CEO of Spensa Technologies. "In the U.S. in 2010, crop growers lost $20 billion to insect damage and spent $4.5 billion on insecticides."

The tool enables growers and consultants to manage insect trap data and pesticide records on a secure website by entering data through a Web browser or smartphone app, and is available as an online subscription service through MyTraps.com.

"MyTraps.com provides tools to make insect trap data collection more efficient and accurate and allows real-time access of the data collected," said Park, who also is a Purdue research assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering. "Ultimately, growers and consultants can make more insightful and timely pest management decisions. The program provides aerial field images taken from satellite cameras and places the insect data over the image of the fields so growers can see the insect population data of the fields."

The program has been tested in the field, receiving praise from growers and advisors alike. Allan Fetters, director of technology for Simplot Grower Solutions, a full-service agricultural retail organization based in Boise, Idaho, tested MyTraps.com last year.

"We tested the desktop and mobile app with crop advisers and found strong effectiveness in monitoring data electronically compared to what has traditionally been a long, tedious handwritten process," Fetters said. "Not only was the collection of insect data greatly expedited, we noticed greater accuracy because the data is input electronically in the field. The traditional process would have required our crop advisers to collect the data in the field and then transfer it to a computer or ledger at a later time."

Fetters said another advantage is that the data collection is in real-time, which enables growers to make more accurate decisions in their pest-management programs. It also allows consultants to combine data from multiple geographic growing regions and track insect population trends.

The latest version of the app provides a secure data share site where growers and consultants can easily communicate with each other. "The users of MyTraps.com can now allow other people to view insect population data in their fields. Consultants may want to share the data with their clients or other consultants. Grower may want to share the data with Extension folks to get a second opinion," Park said. 

Another new feature of MyTraps.com is "lure tracking," which reduces the number of times a grower needs to manually check the lure levels in insect traps.

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