May 10, 2016RIMpro technology can help manage apple scab, other pests
If you’d like to manage apple scab and other pests with more precision and can take the time to learn a new method, the RIMpro cloud service might be for you. It’s certainly a significant step above similar data tools, which pretty much just state “infection” or “no infection,” said Jon Clements, an Extension educator with the University of Massachusetts (UMass).
Use of RIMpro, which originated in Europe, is expanding across the globe. Thousands of fruit growers now use the technology, mainly on apples and pears, according to Marc Trapman, the Dutch fruit adviser who developed RIMpro.
Trapman described RIMpro as a “decision support system for the management of fruit pests and diseases.” The tool is based on simulation models developed and tested by scientists in production regions around the world. Growers and ag consultants connect their weather stations to the system, or create a virtual weather station, and RIMpro’s models use the localized weather forecasts to simulate disease development in the coming hours and days.
RIMpro is used by individual growers who have their own accounts, and by consultants who run a network of weather stations on the platform and make the data available to clients via their own websites. Users have unlimited access to all models, and can create groups to share results with each other, Trapman said.
RIMpro’s output is in graphics, designed to help the user understand the situation in the field and make optimal crop protection decisions. Users also can register their fungicide use, to let the model estimate the remaining fungicide cover from previous treatments, according to Trapman.
David Rosenberger, a professor and plant pathologist with Cornell University, said RIMpro can help commercial growers identify key risk periods for apple scab, but it’s not a “panacea for scab management.” Outputs can sometimes be confusing or misleading, especially as changing weather forecasts can cause a prediction to change overnight.
RIMpro’s development started in 1993, when an international working group studying apple scab decided it wanted to make all scientific information on – and practical experiences with – scab available to growers and consultants, Trapman said.
Rosenberger said Trapman is the developer and owner of the RIMpro software, but a large group of scientists in Europe provided inputs over many years, and they still meet annually to discuss scab biology and ways to improve the model. The technology became more practical several years ago, when RIMpro was moved to a cloud-based system that made it available on both Windows and Mac operating systems. The cloud-based system also allows RIMpro to be updated without needing to download a whole new program.
Rosenberger said UMass’ Clements and Dan Cooley initiated the system in the United States several years ago, but use isn’t yet widespread and there’s much to learn.
RIMpro started with an apple scab model, updated annually based on evaluation by the working group. Models for other pests and diseases have been developed in the same way. For apples, there are now models for scab, fire blight, codling moth, apple sawfly, neonectria and Marssonina leaf fall disease. A model for sooty blotch will be added later this year. For grapes, there are models for downy mildew and black rot. There’s a plan to develop models for stone fruit diseases, Trapman said.
For apple scab, RIMpro runs weather data through complex algorithms that estimate the development of scab ascospores, provide risk estimates for scab infection and show the probable amount of infections that have already occurred in unsprayed trees. The predicted infection risks are adjusted, as weather forecasts are adjusted, over time. When users access the RIMpro website, servers use the data from their weather stations and generate an on-screen graph of scab infection risk within seconds. The program allows users to change the technical parameters that influence the output, but at this point no one in the United States has enough experience to know if any of those parameters will need to be tweaked for U.S. conditions, Rosenberger said.
RIMpro includes a system for estimating how weather and time will impact pesticide depletion, but that system is not yet functional in the United States because its labeled products and use rates are different than in Europe. Even when they become available, the pesticide depletion predictions will only be rough estimates and should not be considered definitive. Furthermore, inputting spray data for a large number of blocks will be time-consuming and may not be worth the effort for most growers, Rosenberger said.
Vincent Philion, a researcher with Canada’s Research and Development Institute for the Agri-Environment, said the RIMpro system is unique. A few organizations have “copied” RIMpro in recent years, but the models are crude by comparison. In his advisory work, Philion said RIMpro helps identify gaps in spraying – much better than the guesswork he used to do.
Learning to use RIMpro takes time. Those who want to learn need to start a month or so before scab season, and become comfortable with how the program works. It may be that RIMpro will be more widely used by Extension educators and consultants than by growers in the United States. Several dozen U.S. growers have signed up to use the program, however, and time will tell if they’re willing to stick with it, Rosenberger said.
Learn more about RIMpro
RIMpro B.V. in The Netherlands handles user support of RIMpro. Users can create accounts and install weather stations at www.rimpro.eu, or write Marc Trapman at [email protected] to specify their situations.
Users pay 200 euros per year to have their location on the RIMpro platform. If they don’t have access to a “real” weather station, they can create a virtual station. The MeteoBlue weather datastream for this virtual station costs another 50 euros per location and year, Trapman said.
There is a discount if you want to put 10 or more stations on a RIMpro account, as a consultant might want to do, said Jon Clements, a UMass Extension educator.
— Matt Milkovich, managing editor