Identify pest issues by listening to plants

Entomologist Dr. Emily Bick Photo: University of Wisconsin

Emily Bick develops tools and strategies supporting precision management practices for insect pest control.  She tells Brownfield microphones have long been used to study insects. “Oftentimes, these are above-ground kind of audio recordings. What my lab has developed this past year, in fact starting in February, is the ability to clip on a microphone to a plant and start listening to the things that are feeding on it.”

A University of Wisconsin entomologist is identifying crop pests and gauging the severity of the infestation by listening to the plants.

And Bick says she was able to identify two large-bodied insects by sound, and then two small-bodied pests common to farmers. “European corn borer and corn rootworm, and we can distinctly hear and tell the difference between species that are eating corn from inside or underground.”

Bick says the identification tool she’s developing could help producers know exactly what’s going on in the field. “I have a tool for people to plug into their phones, clip onto a plant, and in 40 seconds, figure out if you have the pest that you care about through an app, or what we could do is set up a set of sentinel plants around the state or around the country and autonomously hear, listen in to insect to figure out what’s going on.”

After more development this year, Bick plans to do testing on the field microphone and smartphone app next year.

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