New mobile software to aid forest health

November 17, 2011

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Forestry and agricultural researchers have collaborated to develop mobile device software which foresters can use to record damage caused by pests and diseases in the field.

The information gathered can be uploaded to a central database which will help scientists to better analyse and understand the data on the location of outbreaks and their spread.

The software was developed after Francisco Tovar from the Cooperative Research Centre Forestry (CRCF) saw a demonstration of a different software application for use in surveys of quarantine threats in urban environments. This was designed by Rob Emery from the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) and Nicolas Garel from the Cooperative Research Centre for National Plant Biosecurity (CRCNPB).

Mr Tovar thought that a similar software solution could aid with the field-recording issues faced by foresters and worked with Mr Garel to develop software they called Industry Pest Management Group Plantation Health or IPH for short.

“The Western Australia bluegum plantation industry really suffers from a lack of records regarding the extent and timing of damage caused by pests and diseases,” said Mr Tovar, who is also a forest health researcher based at Murdoch University.

“We could see that software developed for mobile devices could really help foresters. They could record important information like the extent and severity of any damage, GPS co-ordinates and photos directly on any mobile device like mobile phones and personal digital assistants.

“So I worked with Nicolas to come up with software which records all the essentials and includes brief weed and pest field guides to aid foresters with correct identification in the field.”

Several WA bluegum industry companies have agreed to start integrating the use of mobiles and the new software into their everyday field operations and all the companies in WA have agreed to testing it out in their surveys of plantations in December.

“This will involve collectively surveying approximately 270 plantations, covering an area of up to 30,000 hectares and recording approximately 54,000 individual pieces of data,” said Mr Tovar.

“We’re hoping an annual survey of the plantations becomes an industry standard. This would allow both the industry and researchers to access accurate, auditable and geo-referenced data that could serve to address any number of biosecurity and plantation health issues.”

Mr Tovar added that the project highlighted the value of the cooperation fostered through the funding and support of Australia's Cooperative Research Centres Program.

The software is compatible with Windows mobile devices. Mr Tovar and Mr Garel are currently developing a platform independent version of the software that will also run on Android (Google) phones and iPhones.

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