‘Internet of Agriculture Things’ proving valuable to strawberry producers

strawberry_resizedThe U.S. is the leading producer of the strawberries worldwide with states such as California and Florida producing more than $300 million each of the fruit every year. Because the success of the crop is so vital to these states’ economies, strawberry growers spend their winter looking for ways to sustain their harvests and profitability.

A new way of accomplishing this may on the horizon as Natalia Peres, a University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education Center professor of plant pathology has created an online web tool, the Strawberry Advisory System (SAS). The system helps farmers spend less money on fungicides yet achieve better results with what they do spray.

According to a recent article, traditionally, Florida strawberry farmers spray their strawberry crops once each week from November to March to prevent attacks of botrytis and anthracnose, the two most deadly fruit rot diseases for strawberries. Peres’s monitor communicates with farmers through their computers and mobile technology to alert them of an adverse disease index; meaning that the combination of leaf wetness, air temperature, and other factors have combined to create a perfect environment for disease. Once alerted, farmers can spray their crops and then log the information onto a website where each spray is tracked, the indexes are logged, and spray advisories given.

“This system is a prime example of something we like to call the ‘Internet of Agriculture Things.’ It is showing how Internet-enabled technologies can be used to achieve the kind of healthy, cost-effective, high-yield crops we will need to feed the burgeoning global population while ensuring competitiveness of the American farmer,” Sonny Ramaswamy, director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, said in the article.

With 96% of Florida strawberry producers reporting cases of botrytis, 40% with yearly cases of anthracnose, and 30% with anthracnose every 3-4 years, fungicides are necessary — and expensive. However, SAS may be just what Florida’s farmers are looking for.

“The impact it has in Florida is already clear in the profits—spraying less and getting the same effects helps the economic situation, as well as positively impacting environmental causes,” Peres said in the article. “The reduction in spraying also means that producers are preserving the chemicals they still have. Resistance caused by over-spraying is lessened, so chemicals are available for use longer when producers really need them.”

Peres and her team plan to expand SAS into South Carolina in the spring of 2015 after proving it also works successfully in Iowa, North Carolina, and Ohio.

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