New Technology Helps Food Safety Initiatives

The University of Georgia has developed a new technology that can be used to identify pests that contribute to plant and crop destruction. They are partnering with a government organization, Organismo Internacional Regional de Sanidad Agropecuaria (OIRSA), to implement the tool. 

Many countries struggle with food shipments being damaged or destroyed by invasive insects and plant disease.According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, between 20% and 40% of global crop production is lost to pests. Plant diseases cost the global economy around $220 billion and invasive insects around $70 billion. 

The state-of-the-art imaging was developed in 1997 by researchers and information technology professionals in UGA’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. While the Distance Diagnostics through Digital Imaging (DDDI) technology which can better assess disease and infestation in crops, has existed for many years, this is the first time it will be used in Central America. 

Through digital imagery, the DDDI process can provide assessment and recommended treatment almost immediately. Before the development of DDDI, evaluating samples and properly identifying diagnoses could take days, if not weeks. 

“Through the use of the DDDI system, there have been many cases where substantial crop losses were avoided, and potential disease or pest outbreaks were contained,” said Brian Watson, IT director in the CAES Office of Information Technology. “As a leader in this arena, UGA has been engaged to design, develop and host customized DDDI solutions for 15 or more institutions and organizations over the years.”

The new agreement will allow OIRSA to help Central American countries to handle the ongoing problem with food shipments. It positions them to advance their research in plant pathology, agricultural health and food safety while developing a prompt warning system for agricultural plagues and diseases. 

“The University of Georgia has been a strategic ally for many years,” said Raúl Rodas, regional director of quarantine services for OIRSA. “By allowing us to use their technology, every country we serve has benefited greatly.”

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