New System Would Turn Pest-hunting Into a High-tech Art

A new system to help farmers in the Upper Galilee region fight crop pests will replace the traditional magnifying glass used by Agriculture Ministry field personnel with a computerized system linked to their cellphones. The new technique will allow ministry officials who advise farmers on pests and how to treat them to punch in all the information necessary to identify a pest - size, crop type, magnitude of infestation and exact location according to GPS and get a much wider understanding of how the area is affected, says Elkana Ben-Yashar, director of the Agriculture Ministry' s northern research and development station.

"We were looking for a smart way to allow the farmer to relate to the entire Upper Galilee, not just his own little field," Ben-Yashar said."That is very significant as far as use of pesticides. The system will allow us almost total control."

The value of the region for both local and international tourism and the fact that the Upper Galilee is the main drainage basin for the sea of Galilee to the south, as well as greater awareness of ecologically-friendly farming, were all factors behind development of the system.

"A reduction in the use of pesticides is one of our top priorities," said Moshe Shalit, director of the environmental quality unit in the Upper Galilee Regional Council."By improving the quality of life for farmers and the residents, we will improve water quality, meet increasingly strict market demands and help brand the region in a unique way."

Shalit said that when farmers know what is happening in their neighbor's fields, it can help their own.

"Who knows," he said. "Maybe a neighboring farmer's treatment sent the pests to the next field?"

The system will help farming advisers to zero in on what type of treatment is best for a specific pest, from a wider perspective.

"We have to remember that agriculture is intensive, often right next to communities and tourist sites, with a variety of growers and crops," Shalit said. "In terms of the entire region, information is the most important thing and this new tool will be the basis for it."