A research group formed by Rocío María Oliva Molina and Antonio Jesús Álvarez Martínez has obtained the prize for best "Greenhouse Technology" project at the biennial congress organised by the Spanish Society of Agro-Engineering and the Spanish Society of Agricultural Sciences. The group conducted research on "Effectiveness of anti-insect nettings against the Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius) white fly under laboratory conditions".
This research group has been working for ten years with agro-textiles: "Fundamentally, we work with anti-insect nettings; an environmentally-friendly protection method that allows for a considerably reduction in the use of pesticides."
Rocío María Oliva Molina and Antonio Jesús Álvarez Martínez (Department of Engineering)
An anti-insect netting is a type of fabric which is installed on the windows of a greenhouse to prevent the entrance of harmful insects. They offer great advantages, but also a major inconvenience; while they prevent the entrance of insects from the outside, they also partially obstruct the air flow, which is so necessary for the ventilation of the greenhouse and to maintain favourable microclimatic conditions for the development of the crop. This is why it is so important to optimise their design to make them capable of preventing the entrance of insects while allowing a good air flow.
Despite their benefits, "nowadays they are installed without much care," points out the researcher Antonio Jesús Álvarez. "That is where we come in, because our work focuses on raising criteria for the selection of the most interesting netting for the grower, in accordance with their needs."
The first thing they devised was a method to measure anti-insect nettings. This method is embodied in the software Euclides v1.4. "Euclides allows us to obtain all the geometric characteristics of the anti-insect nettings; something truly innovative."
Rocío and Antonio Jesús explain that, before Euclides, the way to make these measurements consisted in measuring the holes in the netting and the size of the insects. "Sadly," they highlight, "the issue is much more complicated, because in reality we do not have a standard-sized insect, but a population; consequently, there are "tall", "short", "thin" and "fat" insects, and additionally, they are skillful and in many cases they are able to slightly change their shape to fit through the netting."
That is why laboratory tests are so important, and to this end, the team has designed a device for a correct evaluation of the effectiveness of the agro-textiles, which is what warranted the prize at the Iberian congress of Agro-Engineering and Agricultural Sciences. "With this design, we are able to simulate the effects of wind action and determine, in a fully controlled environment, the loss percentage of an anti-insect netting."