A new app could help farmers protect crops and safeguard food production in the UK.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for farmers to protect produce from pests, weeds and disease, as conventional pesticides become unusable due to evolving resistance or changes in the law.
Smartphone app CROPROTECT could be an invaluable resource where effective pesticides are no longer available, offering advice on biological control methods or resistant crop varieties.
Improved access to information about integrated pest, weed and disease management is vital for farmers to mitigate the risk of failing harvests, said CROPROTECT project co-ordinator Dr Toby Bruce of Rothamsted Research. He added:
"We are listening to the needs of the farmers and experts in soil management and field-crop production. We know that they are the experts for their local fields and we are aiming to give decision support not decision-making."
The app was developed by three crop protection experts from Rothamsted Research to give farmers, agronomists and other industry players access to a free web-based knowledge exchange resource, providing information and recommendations specific to their needs. Users can also give feedback on issues they face on the farm.
The app is available to anyone and could also be useful to gardeners growing in allotments or at home.
The CROPROTECT app is supported by the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Innovation Club (SARIC), a joint NERC and Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) initiative.
Dr Bruce, who leads the SARIC research translation grant, said the idea for the app came out of discussions with website users who said they wanted improved accessibility. He added:
"Indeed, the first pest, weed and disease targets have been selected based on number of votes from pioneer users of the system. The information on the system can be rapidly updated and is constantly growing."
Feedback from users will be used to further develop the tool, built in consultation with the online farming forum AgriChatUK, the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board, agronomist organisations Hutchinsons and Agrii, the Association of Independent Crop Consultants and the National Farmers Union.
Jodie Mitchell, knowledge & innovation manager for sustainable food production at NERC, said:
"Food security is one of the major issues we face in the coming decades, so supporting efforts to safeguard UK farming from crop failure is an investment in our future. The Sustainable Agriculture Research & Innovation Club supports high-quality research and research translation, providing innovative approaches, tools and technologies to ensure a resilient UK agricultural system."
Rothamsted Research receives strategic funding from BBSRC, with technical help from Ether Creative.
The app will be available today for Android phones from the CROPROTECT website: https:/