'Super app' helps track insect populations

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click image to zoomPurdue Research ParkThe online application Mytraps.com shows insect data collected in agricultural fields and an aerial map of the fields so growers and consultants can electronically manage insect numbers and better control crop damage due to insects. An upgraded online pest management program could help agricultural growers 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 Inc., a Purdue Research Park-based company that developed the online tool MyTraps.com. "In the U.S. in 2010, crop growers lost $20 billion to insect damage and spent $4.5 billion on insecticides."

MyTraps.com enables growers and consultants to manage insect trap data and pesticide records on a secure website by entering data through a smartphone or Web browser. The application 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."

Allan Fetters, director of technology for Simplot Grower Solutions, a full-service agricultural retail organization based in Boise, Idaho, said his company tested MyTraps.com last year.

"We tested the desktop and mobile app with crop advisors 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 advisors 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. 

The app allows consultants to combine data from multiple geographic growing regions and track insect population trends.

"Tracking insect trends is important, particularly with the global exchange of products and services. MyTraps.com can help growers and consultants manage multiple fields in large geographic regions so they can better identify global trends and control insect populations in those fields," Park said. "Understanding what is happening in a particular area is important, but understanding of how insects are moving across a larger region can help growers and consultants better plan for future needs."

The upgraded app provides a secure data share site where growers and consultants can easily communicate with each other.

"The users of MyTraps.com can now grant 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.

"Often growers forget to replace trap lures. Obviously, they need to keep the lure fresh if the traps are to be effective," Park said. "MyTraps.com keeps track of the timespan a lure works at its optimum level and alerts the growers when it is time to replace a lure."

The online application can be used to collect insect data affecting any crops including corn, green beans, soybeans, apples, oranges, pears and grapes. It also stores data over time so growers can identify insect trends, access their pesticide data online and analyze past data while planning for future growing seasons.

For more information on starting a MyTraps.com subscription, visit http://mytraps.com/

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