June 12, 2024

Farmers to Wage High-Tech Bug War

Drones and artificial intelligence (AI) sound like an unlikely pairing when it comes to pest control, but Italian scientists may have handed farmers a new tool in the fight against crop-destroying pests.

This group of researchers have utilised readily-available drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – to observe brown marmorated stink bugs across an infested pear orchard. The species has an infamous reputation for being particularly destructive to fruit trees in North America and across the south of Europe.

Recently published study results have indicated that the use of UAVs equipped with an automated flight protocol and AI-spotting technology have proven more effective than contemporary methods that are energy- and time-consuming.

Adult stink bugs have been seen to stop moving, allowing the drones to capture high-quality photos of the pests; combined with an image database, AI models are able to detect and verify their target with 97% accuracy.

The technology offers advances in anticipating pest movements in conjunction with environmental factors and can be applied to other crops, says Lara Maistrello, a professor at the University of Modena in Italy.

“Of course, if you want to move on to other insects, you will have to train new models, but this experience is really encouraging. We find these results exciting, especially because their future applications are so many,” Maistrello mused.

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