The Bootheel of Southeast Missouri is home to about 98 percent of the state’s cotton acreage. Cotton, as a high-value commercial crop, has seen a significant increase in pesticide use over the past five years. With this increased use, more attention is being paid to those insecticides that are not only most appropriate for pest control in individual fields but also affect the pest, crop and surrounding environment. Insecticide choices must be concerned with efficacy, selectivity and secondary pests. In addition, frequently used insecticides must be continually monitored for pest susceptibility (i.e. evolving resistance).
In the case of pesticide sprays, the monitoring of pest incidence and intensity is nothing new. What are new are the technology tools that make pest observations more than just numbers. Most popular of these tools is the mobile device application or “app.” The app being reported here is for monitoring cotton pests and scheduling pesticide applications. It is called the “Cotton Spray App.” The spray app will be distributed on a smartphone to Bootheel consultants, who will evaluate it during the 2015 growing season.
Cotton Spray App – An Effective Tool
The design and development of the Cotton Spray App is being led by ZedX, Inc., an information technology company (zedxinc.com) located in central Pennsylvania. The required pest and chemical databases to support this app are being supplied by the University of Missouri, Fisher Delta Research Center (delta.cafnr.org) located in Portageville, Mo. Entomologist Moneen Jones will also oversee testing of the first version of the app in the field. The testing will involve crop consultants in the Bootheel. During the development phase of the app, three consultants anonymously shared their past two years of pest data to serve as a baseline for management improvement. During the field evaluation phase, the app will be distributed to consultants for their use and feedback.
App functionality is organized under four interface tabs: Preferences, Setup, Scouting and Schedule. By completing entries under these tabs, a user selects preferences for entry dropdown menus, registers a cotton field, records crop stages and pest observations and chooses among recommendations based on recorded observations. User entries are stored locally on the app and only data relevant for research and Extension recommendations are uploaded to a server. All uploaded data are treated as confidential information.
While functionality of the Preferences, Setup and Scouting tabs is similar to other modern pest collection apps, the “Schedule” tab is unique. The Schedule interface first presents current and historical pest observations and then allows a user to prioritize the order of displayed materials according to their mode of action (MOA), maximum residue level (MRL), impact on beneficial insects (e.g. bees) and cost. A sort function within the app cross references the observed pest intensity with user preferences and the prioritized order of MOA, MRL, beneficial insects and cost. The end result is a sorted list of materials beginning with those that are a good match with the prevailing crop and pest situation and management goals and ending with those that are a worst match.
Specific Applications To Fit The Field
The app also takes into consideration the phenology of cotton, in that pest incidence is weighted higher or lower depending on the growth stage in the field. For example, thrips damage is a higher concern in seedling cotton plants and therefore a rating of M (medium) is weighted higher at that growth stage than later in the growing season. Once a material is selected from the sorted list, a user can access Extension-created guidelines for handling and application on a crop. Finally, the consultant has the option of emailing the report to the producer or printing out a report.
The benefits of the Cotton Spray App include the economical use of foliar insecticides and improved pest management. This app is not a replacement for consultant services, but rather a tool for consultants to improve pest management for their customers through judicious use of insecticides. Over the next year, the app functionality will be expanded to include downloadable products, such as regional maps of pest activity and risk. The app itself will be integrated into a national online information technology platform for the sharing of pest observations and control recommendations among agricultural professionals.
For more information about the Cotton Spray App, contact Dr. Moneen Jones at email@example.com at the Fisher Delta Research Center in Portageville, Mo. Dr. Joseph Russo, president of ZedX, also contributed to this story.