Field Prophet for Crop Disease Risk Prediction

Diseases can cause devasting losses in corn, soybean and turf management. With limited genetic resistance to manage these diseases, growers need a method to predict if and when to apply costly plant protection like fungicides.

Past predictive tools have provided less than desired accuracy and growers are in need of new, accurate, and accessible solutions.

The value of using accurate risk prediction tools is the avoidance of profit robbing yield loss or ineffectively using a chemical application strategy.

The Innovation: Field Prophet, Inc. smartphone software incorporates new weather-based crop disease risk prediction models for U.S. corn and soybean growers. This software-based tool will use a smartphone with an internet connection to read the local weather conditions and
determine when weather conditions in a field are conducive for infection by corn or soybean pathogens, thus providing farmers with insights to protect their crops health in the most efficient manner. Rather than let the new research tools stay in the laboratory and slowly starve from diminishing funding, the team is building toward commercial viability with the creation of their new business and new software.
Farmer quotes:
• “Tar spot of corn has continued to spread in Minnesota. This disease was found in Minnesota for the first time in four counties in 2019. In 2020, it has been confirmed in 11 counties in southeastern Minnesota..”.
• “I look at an app as an educational tool just as much as a predictive tool,” a Wisconsin farmer says. “Once you feel comfortable with an app, you return to it quite often.”

Broader Impacts:

• Increasing the economic competitiveness of the United States by addressing a major issue with crop viability (fungal infestation). Using Field Prophet’s new tool, US farmers will be able to be more productive overall by turning the unpredictable nature of weather into a powerful scientific ally on their farms.
• Field Prophet’s innovation will allow US (and, eventually, global) soybean and corn farmers to become more productive using the land that they are already cultivating, allowing us to preserve more wild spaces and avoiding deforestation of new croplands. It will also assist with helping to feed tomorrow’s expected population increases.
• Advancing of the health and welfare of the American public by helping to reduce the number and types of chemicals used in farming and turf management. Field prophet innovations help keep chemicals out of the environment by ensuring that fungicide sprays are only used when necessary or effective.
• Enhancing partnerships between academia and industry in the United States. These products represents academic breakthroughs that are being commercialized by a small business. Academia is sometimes too quick to drop research results and move on to the next grant opportunity before exploring industry partnerships. Many research grants, which provide the lifeblood of university labs, only want to see new topics explored. When industry comes to a university seeking out new research innovations, quite often the lab has had to move on to the next grant topic.
• Improving public scientific literacy and engagement with science and technology in the United States. Farmers will see a direct monetary benefit from trusting science as it is expressed in the apps, which will expand overall trust in scientific practices in a broad-ranging group of people. Farmers are very knowledgeable in the art of growing, and the United States benefits from their experience and dedication. Innovations like the new Field Prophet software and its deep background in research are helping farmers apply new research on a daily basis in the field.