A research team from National Taiwan University (NTU) yesterday said they have developed a world-leading wireless agroecological monitoring system that can effectively collect pest information in fruit orchards and transmit the data every 30 minutes for analysis, as well as provide a seven-day forecast of possible pest outbreaks.
The interdisciplinary research was funded by the government’s science and agricultural agencies and started in 2006.
The research team was led by Jiang Joe-air (江昭皚), a professor at NTU’s bio-industrial mechatronics engineering department, in cooperation with other departments and the National Taipei University of Technology.
Although Taiwan has been known as the “kingdom of fruits,” the reality is that local farmers face serious damage to their crops from pests, which cause losses of tens of billions of New Taiwan dollars every year, Jiang said.
“I’ve often dreamed of farmers one day managing their farms using their personal computers or smartphones, becoming technological farmers,” he said.
Jiang added that new user-friendly technologies can help achieve that goal, just as the system they have developed can help farmers to easily monitor pests in their orchards, as well as the damage they cause.
The world-leading agroecological monitoring system incorporates technologies and knowledge from insect research, climate monitoring, a wireless sensor network, cloud computing and a geographic information system, and 24 systems have been set up throughout the nation so far.
The research team identified the prevention of damage by Bactrocera dorsalis as the main target of their initial experiments, for which they developed an infrared automatic insect-counting cylinder.
Bactrocera dorsalis is a variety of oriental fruit fly that is considered one of the most serious threats to the nation’s fruit industry, causing damage to more than 80 types of fruit and losses that run into billions of New Taiwan dollars each year.
The automatic insect-counting cylinder attracts the fruit flies by releasing a chemical attractant or pheromone. Its infrared sensor counts the number of flies caught in the cylinder, while the information is transmitted through a wireless network to a database used for estimating pest damage.
Jiang said while the Council of Agriculture has installed more than 600 pest data collection stations throughout the nation and uses manpower to collect the caught insects every 10 days for further analysis, the information is often released too late for farmers to conduct pest prevention measures in their orchards.
“By forecasting how many flies are likely to attack the orchard the next day or the day after, farmers can decide how to prevent damage to their fruit, such as cleaning up the environment, bagging the fruit, or even spraying a certain amount of pesticides,” he said.
Jiang added that the time of bagging the fruit can affect their quality, especially in high-priced fruit such as high-quality export mangoes.