The aspect of plant protection measures is one of the most important areas in the European agricultural sector. Directive 2009/128 / EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for Community action to achieve a sustainable use of pesticides emphasizes that plant protection must be based on integrated pest management, giving priority to those methods which pose the least risk to human health and the environment. The general principles of integrated pest management emphasize the need for pest monitoring using appropriate methods and tools, including scientifically based warning, prediction and early diagnosis systems. Priority must be given to the prevention of harmful organisms, and the use of chemical plant protection products should be encouraged only when absolutely necessary.
The protection of agricultural plants against harmful organisms (diseases and pests) is an inevitable part of agriculture, which has an impact on the profitability of crop production and the quality of the products produced. Yield losses due to the activities of harmful organisms amount to 10-15% annually. Without timely identification of the disease and without the use of protective measures, up to 50% of harvest can be lost. Visual signs of disease in plants are detected when the plants are already damaged, which inevitably means a loss of future yields. Knowledge of phytopathology is required for correct identification of the disease, but even with the right qualifications and experience, it is difficult to predict diseases, so crops are treated with fungicides prophylactically without waiting for an outbreak. Unfortunately, this is not always the most optimal and economical way. Successful control of plant diseases and preservation of a safe environment require new technological solutions.
Accurate identification and prognosis of the disease would allow farmers to preserve yield and use plant protection products only in emergencies and dose as necessary. This would bring economic benefits to the farmer in terms of savings in chemicals, fuel, working hours and ensure the principles of sustainable agriculture: optimal use of plant protection products and fuel, less depletion of the soil and less pollution of the environment.
In order to achieve its goals, the company conducts research, field and laboratory tests, studies hyperspectral images of healthy and diseased plants, analyses the peculiarities of the spectrum of light reflected by plants, and develops algorithms for data processing.
The project develops a unique methodology for the detection of crop diseases in the latent period of the disease, based on the methods of hyperspectral image analysis. Based on this methodology, winter wheat, spring wheat and barley disease forecasting and control systems are being developed for early identification of diseases, including crop monitoring, remote sensing and laboratory data analysis, disease risk mapping. The systems combine a range of spatial, agrochemical, physical and information technology solutions. Signs of future disease are determined from a plant image obtained by photographing the crop with a high-resolution hyperspectral camera. After performing the image spectrum analysis with the help of the information system and evaluating the peculiarities of the light spectrum reflected by the plants, plant changes are identified, signalling the stress state of the plant and the signs of the onset of the disease. The obtained data are verified and confirmed by laboratory tests.