At the 2019 Farm Progress Show, companies were displaying novel technology that attempted to identify a disease from a photograph of a soybean plant. However, spokespeople insisted the concept was a work in progress and might not be usable for some time.
While that technology was displayed, another company was working behind the scenes on technology that would allow a grower to download an app for an Android or iOS device; load a picture of a disease, deficiency or other pest problem into the app; and receive a positive identification within seconds, right in the field.
“We’ve been working on the project for three years with another company called Plantix,” says Jeremy Groeteke, U.S. digital ag lead for Corteva Agriscience. “The result is Threat ID, a Pioneer app [feature] that is available for free in the app store. Anyone can download it and use it.”
Threat ID can identify diseases, nutrient deficiencies and insects that affect 30 crops, ranging from corn and soybeans to tomatoes and potatoes, Groeteke says. “If it’s anything visual that you can see, Threat ID can identify it,” he adds.
What’s the secret that makes this tool a virtual scouting encyclopedia? Plantix developed a database consisting of 20 million pictures. The pictures were used to train an algorithm to recognize something that is like a picture in its database.
“Basically, it’s matching the picture of a crop problem you take to what is in its database,” Groeteke says. “You will get the answer within seconds.”
Not too long ago, sending pictures from the field to an expert via cellphone was progress. “What we’re doing is eliminating that step,” Groeteke says. “It would often take time to reach an expert, send a photo and wait for a response. Now, since you get a positive identification almost instantly, you can move on to decision-making. Once you know what the problem is, you can determine if it is severe enough to justify treatment.”
Threat ID should be a huge help in making decisions on fungicide applications, for example, he notes. You know right away which disease you have in the field. You can check with a seed rep on susceptibility of the hybrid to that disease, and decide if a field should be sprayed.
Although Threat ID is available to anyone, when partnering with a Pioneer Seeds agency, customers can make key decisions faster, Groeteke says. “Pioneer customers will likely see maximum value from the Pioneer Seeds application, but it’s available to help anyone get a valid identification,” he says.
Threat ID joins Pioneer’s Yield Estimator, released for fall 2019, as another free tool available to anyone. All that is required is to establish an account. There is no cost.
“If it’s a new disease or pest, you may get a message saying it can’t make an identification,” Groeteke explains. “There will be a few instances where you will need to send samples to a lab for identification.”