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New System Predicts Potato Pest Risk

Thursday Jul 22, 2021

As originally appeared in, Potato Business Magazine-23rd March 2021

A free cutting-edge system from Washington State University gives Northwest potato growers site-specific information about insect activity in their fields. The new potato decision aid system parallels WSU’s existing system for tree fruit, said Dave Crowder, associate professor of entomology and interim director of WSU’s Decision Aid System program.

The potato system is operating for the first time this year in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. It won’t necessarily give growers an exact number of aphids, Crowder said, but it will tell them how populations are developing in the region. They can plan their insecticide program accordingly.

“Just like people in the weather industry are forecasting what the next week is going to look like temperature-wise, we’re forecasting what the next week is going to look like in terms of Colorado potato beetle (or) potato psyllid.”

Insect abundance models the university uses capture about 50-80% of the variability in the insect populations in the Columbia Basin, Crowder said.

“This is actually quite high because there are a lot of other factors that affect insects – insecticides, management, etc.,” he said.

Models that capture the timing of life stages are able to predict what will occur with over 90% accuracy, he said. Growers say the system has allowed them to save an average of USD62 per acre through improved pesticide application timing and increased crop yields, Crowder said.

“All hubris aside, WSU has the best system in the entire world,” Crowder said. “There are very few institutions that have systems like this in the United States.