Questions about weeds and crop diseases? There’s an app for that

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Montanans can now turn to their phones for help in identifying weeds, insects and crop diseases.


A new phone app provides an additional tool to Montanans who might otherwise text, email or send samples through the mail to the Schutter Diagnostic Lab at Montana State University, said Mary Burrows, lab director and MSU Extension Plant Pathologist. The MSU lab provides identification services for plant diseases, insects, weeds, native plants, and mushrooms.


Farmers who use the app, for example, could take a digital photo of an abnormal wheat stem, then upload the photo and fill out a form with their questions, extra details and contact information. The app will direct the query to the proper expert to determine the cause and suggest possible remedies for the problem. Burrows said the recommendations are responsive to client needs and use the principles of integrated pest management.


Homeowners might use the app to identify an unusual spider that lives in their basement, Burrows added. Extension agents who monitor the incoming questions might learn that a new invasive weed or pest has entered Montana.


“The app is a great place to start and can really speed things up,” Burrows said. “People that use smartphones can use this.”


The app will not only help Montanans, but it could give diagnosticians more complete information than they currently receive, Burrows said.


The app was developed by diagnosticians in other states, and 10 states currently participate. They are all members of the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture National Plant Diagnostic Network.


Funded by the USDA, the app is free to Montanans and available now, Burrows said. For more information and how to use the app, go to http://diagnostics.montana.edu/sample_submission_app.html




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