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Annual Reports

1996California PestCast

US EPA, through its Environmental Technology Initiative program, has given a $250,000 grant to help advance development and validation of crop disease models for use in decision making. The original proposal was developed by Department of Pesticide Regulation, UC IPM, and Campbell Soup Company, and DPR has contracted with UC IPM to administer the program. Agricultural Meteorologist Joyce Strand is coordinator.

The overall goal of the new project is to expand the use of computer-based crop disease forecasting to improve the timing of fungicide applications. The project will

  • develop a public-private weather network in support of research and validation of disease models, carried out through a competitive proposal process, and
  • promote crop disease model research, validation, and outreach to encourage adoption of this technology.
Although disease models are specifically targeted, the weather network can also be used to support work on insects, weeds, and nematodes.

In recent years public and private sector scientists have made progress in developing models that describe the relationships between environmental variables and disease development. The proposed network will facilitate validation of these models to make sure that they will work across the California growing areas. After a model is validated, PCAs and growers will be updated on use of the new technology and will be able to use either their own or a representative weather station in conjunction with the model to make control decisions.

Called "California PestCast," the new project is directed by a five-member steering committee: Jenny Broome and Paul Gosselin (Department of Pesticide Regulation), Bob Curtis (Campbell Soup Company), Kim Crum (California Association of Pest Control Applicators), and Coordinator Strand. This group provides direction and determines which model projects will be funded. A technical advisory group of researchers is also in place. A call for proposals was issued in spring 1996.

Cooperation and The Public-Private Network

A large number of models, crops, and regions can be supported with the participation of the agricultural industry as funding partners. The US EPA funds will be used primarily for central costs of the network.

In 1995 UC IPM and the Center for Pest Management (CPMRE) funded Extension Plant Pathologist Doug Gubler as he worked to validate grape powdery mildew and Botrytis models in Napa, Sonoma, and Kern counties. Growers in those areas purchased weather stations that could measure the weather variables needed by the models, and located them strategically to cover as many local climates as possible.

UC IPM and CPMRE provided equipment and software to retrieve the data from the remote stations, store it, and make it available to Gubler, the cooperating farm advisors, and participating growers. An IPM Smith-Lever grant helped to pay for the study, and the large pool of weather data significantly contributed to the project's widespread results.

With Gubler's project as evidence of growers' willingness to contribute in a substantial way to validation projects, it was decided to stretch the EPA funding by asking for matching industry support in building the weather network. In May a call for proposals was issued to researchers and the agricultural industry. Brief proposals were required to describe the crop-pest system under study, the nature of the work to be done, evidence of industry contribution, and the type of support needed, such as stations, data acquisition or telemetry hardware, software, or services.

The Weather Network

Photo of station installation
Joyce Strand and Marty Martino install a weather station for testing potential use in the PestCast weather network.

Joyce examines equipment
Joyce Strand examines meteorological equipment as Marty Martino and Craig Anderson look on.

One of the initial tasks of the project is to determine what equipment will be suitable for the weather network. Many weather stations being examined by the project steering committee have the potential to meet the needs of this project, and most can provide additional features such as frost alarms and data for calculating degree-days or irrigation scheduling. The steering committee is working with the UC Davis purchasing department to find manufacturers that can provide the most appropriate product for the best price.

Growers, PCAs, and others joining with the project will be able to take advantage of the work going into equipment selection and the quantity pricing quoted to UCD. Many stations from a variety of manufacturers are available. Stations purchased for this project need to be accurate and reliable; capable of storing data on-site and telemetering it to a remote computer; easy to set-up and use; compatible with the overall network; and competitive for start-up, operating, and maintenance costs.

The network will be made up of several subnetworks of stations that collect data locally, with further collection into UC IPM's statewide system. In configuring the network and determining the type of telemetry to use, many issues have been considered, including presence of existing networks, and ability to build on them; regions, specific station locations, and terrain; and start-up, operating, and maintenance costs.

Network: Five weather station manufacturers have each lent UC IPM a datalogger and sensors for demonstration and comparison. The weather stations were installed in spring 1996 at the UC Davis climatological benchmark station on the west campus. The stations use radio or cellular phone telemetry to transmit the data to UC IPM. Ease of installation, maintenance, reliability of the stations and telemetry equipment, and quality of software are being evaluated. A summary of the experience with the different stations will be available in early 1997.

Contributing companies are:
Adcon Telemetry, Inc.
Campbell Scientific, Inc.
Abbeon Cal (Lufft station)
Gempler's (Metos station)
SCI Sensing and Control, Inc.

Funded Projects

Chuck Rivera
Chuck Rivara, California Tomato Research Institute, and Janet Anderson, Director, Division of Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention, US EPA, examine weather station installed for validation of tomato disease models. (Photo by Joyce Strand)

Initially one project has been funded. PestCast is contributing a local data acquisition computer and software for collection of data and two weather stations in the Sacramento Valley.

System: Blackmold, powdery mildew, and late blight of tomatoes

Participants: C. Rivara, California Tomato Research Institute; J. Welty, Processed Tomato Foundation; R.M. Davis, UC Davis; M. Cahn, UCCE Sutter-Yuba counties; G. Miyao, UCCE Yolo County; R. Mullen, UCCE San Joaquin County; H. Bolkan, D. Larsen, R. Curtis, Campbell Soup Company; Tomato Disease Forecasting Committee; 11 stations in San Joaquin, Sacramento, Sutter, and Yolo counties.

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Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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