Georgofili World

Newsletter of the Georgofili Academy

Computer technology supporting pheromone monitoring

The monitoring of agricultural and forest pests has been easily carried out for decades using pheromone traps. Their use requires periodic field inspections of the traps, a dependable classification of the specimens collected, and the data logging and processing. The difficulties in carrying out all these operations, which require skill and time, have created a need for automation.
The problem has been introduced in the chapter of the decision support systems, which has become an established tradition. Using tools powered by solar panels and connected by modem to a web platform, it enables meteorological and agronomic data to be detected and predictive models applied, such as those relating to the development of diseases, pest cycles, and irrigation management. Experiments with electronic pheromone traps are more recent. The already available instrumentation is based on a system of cameras connected to a platform that can manage the information, automatically count the captured insects, and store the images in a file. Data can be read in real time on a monitor or smartphone.
Some interesting experiences in the field have been conducted in recent years in apple orchards and vineyards for monitoring Cydia pomonella, Cydia molesta, Lobesia botrana and Eupoecilia ambiguella. The research, conducted in Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto with the instrumentation from an Austrian company, have provided results very similar to those obtained with traps used in the traditional way. Other experiments were carried out on Cydia pomonella with a model designed by the University of Bologna.
Potentially the electronic traps are suitable for monitoring various other species of Lepidoptera. Further progress was achieved with the addition to the pheromone trap of an ultraviolet light source that attracts insects of various orders with positive phototropism. This trap has been proposed for monitoring the European corn borer. A comparison with light traps provided results consistent with those achieved with traditional traps, but with a substantially simplified operation.
Information science is a sector in tumultuous evolution, therefore it is likely that the already available instrumentation for the automated monitoring of various species of harmful insects will, in the near future, find increasing use in technical assistance programs, increasingly important for correctly applying integrated pest  management criteria to crops.