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UF/IFAS-developed blueberry app to help growers battle diseases and pests

A new University of Florida app will help the state’s blueberry growers identify and manage disease and insect injuries commonly encountered in Florida before their crop is ruined. Collectively, blueberries are a $60 million-per-year crop in Florida.

Patricio Munoz, the UF/IFAS blueberry breeder and an assistant professor of horticultural sciences, came up with the vision for, and supervised the development of, the UF/IFAS Blueberry Growers Guide phone app, released on December 1.

“Dr. Munoz saw the need for a field scouting guide for southern highbush blueberries that growers could use on their phones,” said Doug Phillips, statewide blueberry Extension coordinator. “Previously, the only blueberry scouting guide available was a paper guide for northern highbush blueberries, covering diseases and insects typically seen in more northern states.”

The new UF/IFAS app (type in “UF/IFAS Blueberry Growers Guide”) is available for both iOS and Android operating systems at the Apple Store and the Google Play Store, and it should help farmers who grow blueberries in the Sunshine State.

Phillips, who works at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, led this project. He prepared the content and layout for the guide in collaboration with other UF/IFAS scientists: plant pathology Professor Phil Harmon, entomology Professor Oscar Liburd, horticultural sciences Associate Professor Peter Dittmar, and horticultural sciences Professor Jeff Williamson.

Phillips got help from Jose Delgado, a UF undergraduate who conducted early software development on the app. Delgado earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering in 2019.

The guide, which will ultimately be divided into multiple modules, is designed to help blueberry growers with various production issues on southern highbush blueberries. Currently, the app serves as a blueberry scouting guide to help farmers scout for diseases, insect pests, nutrient deficiencies and other damage, Phillips said.

Resources in the guide include a diagnostic key, descriptions of symptoms, disease/insect life cycles, recommended management practices, an image gallery and links to UF/IFAS blueberry Extension publications. Users can access this information by using the diagnostic key to help identify symptom or injury causes and the image gallery to compare pictures of symptoms to observed symptoms.

They also can use a reference listing of diseases, insect injuries, nutrient deficiencies and other symptoms or injuries.

More functions will be added in the near future, Phillips said. They include a module with detailed information on all UF southern highbush blueberry cultivars.

“The UF/IFAS Blueberry Growers Guide will help Florida’s growers more easily manage damage from disease, insects, and other causes, and in the future will be a valuable resource for other production issues, including choosing which UF varieties are likely to perform well on their farms,” Phillips said.

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.  |  @UF_IFAS

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