Artificial intelligence (AI) will likely help growers and researchers cope with citrus greening (huanglongbing, known as HLB) and other citrus problems over the long run. That’s the belief of J. Scott Angle, the new head of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).
Angle, UF’s vice president for agriculture and natural resources, says AI is a priority for UF/IFAS. “We’re to the point now in science where there’s so much data that we’ve generated … that it becomes very difficult now to make sense of all this data that we’re collecting, and that really can only be done by artificial intelligence.” He says data on trees, soil and weather are among the massive amount of information that has been collected.
“IFAS has been involved in AI for a long time,” Angle says. He mentions researcher Arnold Schumann at the Citrus Research and Education Center as one of those working with AI. Schumann, he says, has been working on a smart phone app to allow disease to be detected “long before any of us can see it visually” and even before dogs can detect it.
Angle emphasizes that AI is “not the solution (to HLB), but it’s one of the management tools which can be quite helpful.” He cites irrigation management and nutrition as some of the other parts of a “suite of technologies” helping growers cope with the disease. “A lot of these things are not the solution” but collectively help growers “see some light at the end of the tunnel,” he says.
UF/IFAS is not alone in the fight against HLB, Angle says. He mentions other partners funding HLB efforts, including the federal and state departments of agriculture and the Citrus Research and Development Foundation.
The citrus industry will survive HLB, Angle concludes. “I think we’ve stabilized in many parts of Florida … I think we’re on the right track,” he says.
This interview with Angle was part of August’s All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media. Listen to the full podcast here.
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