The provision of pest and disease information using Information Communication Tools (ICT); an Australian example

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The Australian grains industry relies on growers and agronomists to report endemic pest and disease issues in their crops to their local agriculture department and to also report anything that appears unusual. Previous work conducted by Wright et al., (2016), demonstrated that 70% of growers and 80% of agronomists could identify endemic diseases in crops. However, skills in identifying high priority pests and diseases that can cause major threats were very low. To improve the surveillance and reporting skills of growers and agronomists the use of information communication tools (ICT) was explored. These tools included; webinars, YouTube videos, podcasts and a mobile app. A survey was conducted with growers and agronomists within the Australian grains industry to determine if they use smartphones or tablets, the Internet and mobile apps. Currently there is a digital divide in Australia as individuals in major cities have better access to Internet services than those in rural regions. In our survey, agronomists accessed the Internet more frequently than growers, and those participants with a university education accessed the Internet more frequently. There was no demographic influence on the usage of apps by participants. A suite of apps was developed by the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia called MyPestGuide (MPG) suite. In this suite there are a number of different tools, one of them being MPG Reporter. This app was promoted to encourage growers, agronomists and the general public to report anything unusual in their crops, gardens, parks or local bushland. This app was also used during a recent outbreak of Russian Wheat Aphid (Diuraphis noxia (Mordvilko)) (RWA) in South Australia in June 2016. Western Australia asked all growers, agronomists and departmental staff to send in reports of presence and absence of the aphid in crops during their seasonal work via the app. Approximately 500 reports were made, supporting the absence of this pest in Western Australian crops. Ten webinars were held during the 2015 growing season and 2016 growing season on topical pest and disease issues in Western Australian grain crops. These webinars were converted to YouTube videos that proved to be very successful with agronomists, as they provided a source of readily available information that was up-to-date. The use of podcasts was trialled during the 2016 growing season for those participants in regional areas that have poor Internet access. Information on RWA was provided to growers and agronomists for the first time using webinars and YouTube videos. The YouTube video was the most frequently watched video out of all the videos produced. Our research has shown, that growers and agronomists are very receptive to the use of ICT as a method to provide immediate and up-to-date information in relation to pest and diseases in crops.

Peer-reviewedYes
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-29
Number of pages10
JournalCrop Protection
Volume103
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018


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