It works great – once you know how. But from knowing which beneficial to use to keeping them happy, biocontrol is both art and craft requiring forethought and attention to detail.
Now a new mobile application for Apple and Android devices puts control of biocontrol in your hands – literally. And it makes scouting a snap.
Developed by Elizabeth Lamb and Brian Eshenaur of the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, along with GORGES Web Development and Internet Solutions, the Greenhouse Scout app combines information on both pests and beneficials with an interactive scouting program that provides a visual record of pest populations over time. You can:
- ID both pests and beneficials.
- Find the info you need to choose among beneficials of choice.
- Record scouting data and beneficial or pesticide applications.
- Graph the rise and fall of pest populations.
- Look for information on compatible pesticides.
Still, you need a “command central” on your office computer. For one thing, viewing complex graphs of pest and beneficial activity is tricky on a small device. The solution is straightforward. The app works you through how to input your locations or crops on your office computer, along with the pests you expect to find there. The program creates QR codes you can print and laminate, then stick on the bench or in the pot. As you make your rounds, just point your phone or tablet at that QR code. It pulls up the scouting form – and you’re ready to go.
Plus from the web side of the app you can print the charts of insect populations and applications directly, or download them as a PDF document or jpeg image. And a manager can check scouting information and beneficial pesticide information put in by scouts in the greenhouse.
So – what if you don’t have WiFi or even cellular access while you’re out scouting? Cell phones are great for accessing data. But they don’t have the capacity to store days of data over the long haul, says John Sammis of GORGES.
“It was a technological challenge,” Sammis says. “We met it by designing the app to sense when your phone or tablet is connected to the Internet, then automatically transfer the data you’d collected.”
One particularly handy feature is fingertip access to lists of beneficials for specific pests, Eshenaur notes. “If, for example, western flower thrips are an issue, all you have to do is tap on that pest. A list of seven beneficials that you can use to manage them pops right up.”
“Just playing around with the app has already shown me how much time it will save us,” says Michelle Bidwell, a horticulturalist at Cornell University’s Plantations greenhouses. “We have a paper form we use for scouting, then we type it all into our electronic files. The app means we don’t have to do all that work twice.”
Dr. Elizabeth Lamb is with the NYS Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell University. Mary Woodsen is a science writer with the program.