Technology for vegetable crop scouting

Sure, we all have our hand lens, pocket knife, notebook (or electronic device), and other basic tools for crop scouting, but what other, more specialized technology are you using for diagnostics?

Here are a few ideas.  Please add yours in the comments and we can update the list. (For apps, see this other article.)

Digital microscopes for the field

Digital microscopes are available that connect to a computer and allow you to see detailed images on your screen — as well as capture images and video.  For example, Dino-Lite makes handheld digital microscopes that are lightweight, affordable, and simple-to-use, while providing high-quality images. This isn’t an endorsement of this brand over others — this is just the brand that I have experience with (a Dino-Lite Basic).

Dino-Lite Digital Microscope

The USB 2.0 models work with a computer, but you can get a WiFi adapter that will allow you to see the images and take photos and video over WiFi on Android or iOS smartphones or tablets (and on multiple devices at a time — good for teaching). Some models also work with Dino-Lite to Android with CameraFi. Download the CameraFi app from the Google Play store and connect a compatible Dino-Lite device.

You can see examples of insect photos taken with these digital microscopes here.

If you are into do-it-yourself, a very popular Instructables post might inspire you make your own digital microscope: $10 Smartphone to Digital Microscope Conversion.

Or you can pick up a macro lens for your smartphone. There are lots of choices, from this magnifier on an elastic band to magnetic lenses to the many lens on a clip designs and more. Disclaimer: These examples are not recommendations. I haven’t tried them.

Pathogen Test Kits

Somehow these don’t seem as exciting as electronics, but they are a convenient way to diagnose some plant diseases.

This video shows how they work. Depending on the kit, the steps may be slightly modified, but this gives a general idea.

Suppliers of test kits include:

Visit their websites to see what pathogens they have kits for and to find Canadian or North American distributors.  Common test kits include Phytophthora (eg. to detect pathogens of late blight, Phytophthora blight), bacterial canker of tomato, and various viruses.

Tricorders

Sorry Star Trek fans.  Not yet.  However, if you type Tricorder into your smartphone app store, you may be amazed.

Updated March 2017, March 2016, April 2015

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