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201909 Fresh Quarterly Issue 6 04 Getting More Out Of Monitoring
Issue SixSeptember 2019

Getting more out of monitoring

Is there a missed opportunity?

Hugh Campbell, general manager of Hortgro Science, asks whether monitoring represents missed opportunities. In an interview with Fresh Quarterly, he shared his thoughts on the potential of a standardised monitoring system where data is captured electronically. An inclusive database could be used to manage pests and improve market access at a regional and national level. It would also allow the industry to take advantage of new technologies such as machine learning.

The basis of a monitoring system is to give you information on which to make orchard-based decisions so as to manage your pests and diseases. Any system that you design has to have functionality at that level.

The ideal would be a standardised monitoring system where everyone uses the same protocol. This would allow you to capture the information at orchard level for growers to make orchard-based decisions, as well as to pick up regional trends. For example you could see the early onset of bollworm in a certain area — because you have your early indicator areas just as you have hotspots on a farm. You could see that there’s a problem developing. Matthew Addison, Hortgro’s crop protection programme manager, has been advocating this approach for many years.

Monitoring gives you the tools to manage pests at low populations and to pick up shifts in pest status early. Take for instance codling moth — by the time you see the damage in the bin, it’s too late.

One of the biggest advantages of a digital system is the opportunity to transform monitoring data into maps and overlays so that you can look at trends. In a question of three minutes you can pick up trends within an orchard, across orchards, within an orchard over the last ten years — you can take something like codling-moth trapping data and see where your hot spots are. Digital systems can transform complicated data into easily-understood visual data — it can give the grower the aha! moment at the press of a button.

Moving beyond orchard management

I see a window of opportunity to standardise monitoring information relating to phytosanitary requirements. For example fruit fly — we’re in the process of finalising the European Union protocol for the systems approach. The systems approach is a management tool that is allowed according to International Plant Protection Convention rules whereby you need to implement two or more independent measures to meet the phytosanitary requirements of the importing country.

One of the foundations of the systems approach is monitoring. So now something that was done from an orchard management point of view is being translated into a regulatory process.

The bigger picture is that you can demonstrate different levels of risk for regions. If a region is an area of no or low pest prevalence, you can claim that status, and it allows you — in a systems approach — to have different levels of intervention. You can even take it down to a place of production. For example if you had everything under nets and you can provide data to substantiate that there are no signs of the relevant organism, and it has been inspected by an official for a specified period — that would free you up from implementing any further control measures as the unit would be officially recognised as being pest-free for that organism.

There is great value in having a standard protocol for monitoring and data-capture so that everything can be pooled into a database for further analysis. If we can start by creating that platform for phytosanitary pests, we can build on it.

The potential is greatest for pests that need to be managed on an areawide basis. If you look at global trends, that’s becoming the basis of effective management — particularly with fewer and fewer tools for managing pests. Our focus needs to be on the strategic pests where you have to think bigger than just your own orchard.

Image supplied by Graeme Hatley Photography.

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