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What Pest is That? Recent Developments in Digital Pest Diagnostics

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Good pest management practice on the farm requires insect pests, diseases, weeds, as well as beneficial organisms, such as predators and parasites, to be correctly identified. At regional and national borders, effective quarantine measures also require correct identification of intercepted organisms to deal with the increased threat of invasive pest species associated with increased world trade and travel. Where incursions have occurred, early detection and management of invasive species is again critical for advising on effective eradication or suppression. Over the past few years there has been a surge in efforts to provide online access to information on known and described plant and animal species, including pests and diseases. The most recent and most ambitious project is the Encyclopaedia of Life – EOL ( – a US based project that aims to provide access to a web page for all known species. Another global effort, focusing on invasive species, is the Global Invasive Species Information Network – GISIN ( – formed to provide a platform for sharing invasive species information at a global level. However, for the information contained in these and similar databases to be available to a specific individual, the scientific name of the species of interest needs to be known by that individual. If the specimen has not been identified, then access to information about it is not available. With the global decline in taxonomic expertise, increased reliance needs to be placed on new technologies to provide novel ways of identifying pest and beneficial species in the future. Genetic bar-coding, remote image diagnostics and pattern recognition software are some of the technologies likely to play an important role in the future, although some of these technologies are either still in development or not currently available to many practitioners. Computer based diagnostic technologies, on which this short article focuses and which includes identification keys and image databases, provide additional diagnostic tools for pest identification.
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Document Type: Short Communication

Publication date: 01 October 2010

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