Robots May Soon Detect Grove Pests and Diseases

Ernie NeffDiseases, Pests, Technology


arnold schumann

It may not be long before a grower sips coffee and works on the computer while a robot roams the grove checking for HLB-spreading psyllids and other pests and diseases. That’s thanks to machine vision software. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences scientist Arnold Schumann tells about research he has been conducting.

Schumann says researchers have developed artificial intelligence applications for pest and disease detection. “In our case, we’ve successfully trained it to detect adult (Asian citrus) psyllids,” he says. “We want to use it for automatic scouting, mostly by robot.”

In addition to training software to detect psyllids, “we’ve successfully trained it to detect canker lesions on fruit and leaves in the grove, on the canopy,” Schumann says. A weed application has been developed for vegetables, he adds.

Schumann says he wants to further develop the software to detect common citrus pests such as rust mites, spider mites, thrips and even smaller insects and arachnids. “That’ll take some retooling” because of the small size of those pests, he says.

Because virtually all growers now carry smart phones, they already have the hardware needed for machine detection of pests and diseases, Schumann says. So he thinks actual utilization of the machine vision technique could come relatively soon. “It’s close,” he says.

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About the Author

Tacy Callies

Editor of Citrus Industry magazine