ACCEPTANCE of computers on farms has been slow and steady but a new development by HRI Wellesbourne is making on-screen advice and information easier for vegetable growers but tougher for pests and disease.
In the farm office it will seem entirely logical that all computerised prediction and information systems for field veg, nursery and orchard crops should run in the same way and present results in a similar, easy-to-understand fashion. In practice, it required a great deal of development time to bring a number of the HRIs various services into line.
By creating a common software framework, known as MORPH, on which present and future prediction and other programs will run, HRIs information technology section has simplified computer use on the farm or nursery.
Running the WELL-N program, which predicts likely nitrogen leaching from fields under different crops and systems, is now carried out in much the same way as the prediction model for brassica alternaria.
Not all the programs are for direct sale to growers yet but those that are will operate within the MORPH framework and, hopefully, become readily familiar to growers who wont have learn too many new tricks with each new program that comes from HRI.
Dr Stephen Lucey, head of IT at Wellesbourne, hopes the MORPH framework will become an industry standard which would allow growers, of varying computer literacy, simply to plug in new program modules and run them under MORPH.
"The system is designed so the user can have information out in the form they prefer – as a bar chart, a line chart or any other design," he adds.
Familiar post or fax prediction services such as for carrot root fly forecasting are being brought into the MORPH system so growers or advisers, who would prefer to use their own computers, can input their own crop, field and weather data for localised pest predictions.
Other programs which are available or coming soon include WELL-N, carrot and red beet spacing, cabbage root fly or pollen beetle prediction, broccoli maturity, and a number of top fruit pest and disease forecasting systems.
Packaged with many of these HRI programs will be background information to help with pest or disease identification and control, including details of approved pesticides.
The development of MORPH does not threaten the existing services such as for cabbage or carrot root fly prediction which continue as £70 per season subscription services by fax or post.
Dr Rosemary Collier, who developed the system for predicting egg laying and the generation activity with Horticultural Development Council money, is looking at refining the system to provide better quality spray timing information now that growers are switching from organophosphate insecticides to pyrethroids which may have to be applied earlier.
Other pests due to come under scrutiny for possible development of forecasting systems include species which are able to overwinter in the UK such as the small white butterfly and the cabbage moth.
Computer generated advice is making its way on to field vegetable and horticultural farms.