Today’s digital revolution is delivering an arsenal of technological tools to the business of agriculture  - including Smartphones, portable microscopes, and other devices - to help pest control advisers (PCAs) and crop growers more quickly identify and manage destructive insects.

In the end, these digital tools can help increase farm efficiency and profitability, critical keys to remain economically viable in today’s global agriculture.

This technology, says University of Arizona Entomologist John Palumbo, provides precise and faster insect identification crucial in the battle against crop pests. Palumbo, PCAs, and growers are tapping these digital tools to help launch a faster war against destructive insects.

“Digital imagery has come a long way over the last 20 years,” says Palumbo, based at the Yuma Agricultural Center in Yuma.

About 20 years ago, Palumbo leaped into early digital technology to more quickly identify pests found in Arizona low desert farm fields located around Yuma.

Palumbo discussed digital imagery opportunities with PCAs and others at the 2014 Desert Ag Conference in Chandler, Ariz. in May, sponsored by the Arizona Crop Protection Association.

Palumbo says more and more PCAs and growers are aboard the digital bandwagon. Some are snapping excellent close-up photos of pests on plants or the soil. The digital images are texted or e-mailed to entomologists at local universities for faster insect identification.

He compares this time-saving process to earlier years when a PCA or grower snail mailed an insect to a land-grant university where an entomologist identified the pest. The results were then mailed back. The mailbox-to-mailbox connection generally required 7-10 days or longer.

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Today’s digital communications allows a PCA to write pesticide prescriptions quicker faster. This in turn allows faster insecticide applications which can negate serious crop damage, and save the grower thousands of dollars over the long haul.