Insects and Rodents have always been a nuisance for farmers. They feed on their efforts and infest on crops to spread various diseases. Controlling and maintaining their population is therefore important for a farmer to ensure crop health.
Pesticides and insecticides have played a major role in preventing infestations. However, they pose different environmental and social consequences. Extreme use of pesticides can result in severe water & soil contamination and can also intoxicate plants with harmful chemicals. Additionally, insects and bugs become reluctant against them with continuous exposure that forces farmers to rely on heavier pesticides. Even though other methods like genetic seed manipulation are also being used to make crops more robust against the pest attack, they are quite expensive for practical application.
Execution of Internet of Things in the agriculture sector has brought in a major development related to on-filed pest management. A farm owner can now use different sensors to monitor the growth of pests and take further countermeasures to manage them. Below is a list of different sensors that are being used to identify and track the growth of insects.
Sensor used for Pest Detection:
1) Low-power Cameras and Sensors:
Image capturing sensors for pest detection is famous among farmers due to its low cost and high return on investment. They install a low-cost image sensor in traps that captures the images of pests in it and send it to a centralized platform wirelessly. Based on the number of insects present in the traps, the farmers determine the location of insect infestation and take steps to remove them from fields. Along with its low cost, this sensor also offers advantages in terms of high scalability and mobility.
2) High-power Thermal Sensors:
Low-power image sensors only click random images of insects that are visible from the naked eye. However, various pathogens ranging in millimeters also cause different crop diseases in the fields.
Thermography is a method that use thermal and infrared sensors to measure the amount of light reflected by a surface. Every surface reflects distinct amount of light energy which is also called its spectral signature. Plants and soil have a special spectral spectrum that is pre-recorded in spectrometers. In case a pathogen covers the surface of the plant leaves, the spectrum range of the plant will change indicating an attack by the pests. This method is highly effective in detecting the insects and their lifecycle stage. However, this method is expensive and sensitive to change in environmental conditions.
3) Fluorescence Image Sensing:
In this method, the amount of chlorophyll present in a plant is measured based on its change in fluorescence parameters. An optical camera capture images of a plant leaves and then compare it with existing images of a healthy leaf. Change in chlorophyll patterns indicates the presence of pathogens or pests.
Even though, this method detects the presence of pests in a crop, its applicability in fields is highly limited due to scalability issues. Moreover, this method can only be used with crops that contain chlorophyll.
4) Acoustic Sensors:
Detecting bugs and rodents through sound detection is another effective way to ensure plants quality. Wireless acoustic sensors situated at random locations in a field can pick up sound waves of insects. Locations with high sound waves indicate a higher concentration of bugs. A farmer can thus spray pesticides on these locations to ensure the quality of crops.
This cost-effective method offers high accuracy in detecting pest infestations and can be used at a wider scale. However, its accuracy depletes drastically in rainy and windy weather conditions.
5) Gas Sensors:
Plants when stressed produce specific volatile chemical compounds. These compounds differ based on the stress that they feel. For instance, compound secreted due to environmental change will be different then the compound emanated due to pest infestation. Hence, these compounds have to be studied before they can be used for identifying attack caused due to bugs or rodents.
Once these compounds are studied, a gas sensor can be used to identify the attack by pests or type and nature of the infection. The only drawback with these methods is that of the sampling required to collect volatile compounds for data analysis.
Advantages Offered by IoT Based Pest Control Systems:
These sensors are assisting farmers to target locations in their fields infected by insects and pathogens. The data collected through these sensors is instantly transferred to a centralized platform wirelessly. By using this platform, a farmer can monitor the health of its crop form distant locations and protect it from the attack of insects and rodents. The advantages offered by IoT to the agriculture sector in terms of pest control are:
1) Monitoring Pest Infestation and Crop Health:
Through distant monitoring, a farmer can easily collect information about the presence of insects and rodents. Sensors placed in different corners of the field detect the infestation of pests or pathogens and transmit it to a dashboard. A farmer can use this dashboard to instantly connect with his fields and manage crop health.
Remote pest monitoring has drastically reduced manual inspection and random site visits. The farmers can now target areas that are affected by bugs and spray pesticides on required areas only. This considerably reduces the unnecessary use of pesticides, minimizing the chances of crop intoxication and environmental contamination. The collected data can also be used to identify the insects' breed and their population in the affected crop zones.
2) Weather monitoring and Analytics:
The data gathered from pest detection sensors when recorded and analyzed properly can predict the attack by pests. Tracking the weather conditions and breeding patterns can also assist in identifying the threat level of pest populations.
During the breeding seasons, the probability of infestations is extreme. Moreover, rodents feed on crops to accumulate fat before they hibernate. Predictive analytics make use of such information to establish patterns and trends of probable pest outbreaks and swarm attacks. Based on the type of pest infestation and their population, the analytics feature can also recommend steps for future prevention and information for complete treatment.
3) Automated crop health monitoring:
Integrated pest management (IPM) is a process that is encouraged to favor ecological, social, and economic consequences of pest control. It is an approach that focuses on the limited usage of pesticides to manage pest damage and incur the least possible pesticide-related hazards.
The implementation of IoT in the IPM system will automate time-consuming operations such as manual data point measurement and inspection. Automation makes the process more accurate, cost-effective, and assist farmers to take instant actions based on the response from the sensors. Use of pesticides will also be optimized which will further decrease environmental contamination and harm to crop health.
It is important for a farm owner to control and remove pests from its field to ensure crop health. The advent of IoT in the agriculture sector has enabled a farmer to remotely monitor and control pest infestation. With a one-time investment, a farmer can integrate an IoT powered pest control system to its farm and accurately detect the presence of bugs and rodents without manual inspection. However, the complete capability of IoT in farming rests with the combined usage of its agriculture-based applications. Distant pest control along with crop management, weather monitoring, and livestock management is enabling the development of various modern farming approaches that were never witnessed by the agriculture sector in the past.