CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers in the Oregon State University College of Engineering have harnessed the power of artificial intelligence to help protect bees from pesticides.
Cory Simon, assistant professor of chemical engineering, and Xiaoli Fern, associate professor of computer science, led the project, which involved training a machine learning model to predict whether any proposed new herbicide, fungicide or insecticide would be toxic to honey bees based on the compound's molecular structure.
The findings, featured on the cover of The Journal of Chemical Physics in a special issue, “Chemical Design by Artificial Intelligence,” are important because many fruit, nut, vegetable and seed crops rely on bee pollination.
Without bees to transfer the pollen needed for reproduction, almost 100 commercial crops in the United States would vanish. Bees' global economic impact is annually estimated to exceed $100 billion.
“Pesticides are widely used in agriculture, which increase crop yield and provide food security, but pesticides can harm off-target species like bees,” Simon said. “And since insects, weeds, etc. eventually evolve resistance, new pesticides must continually be developed, ones that don't harm bees.”
Graduate students Ping Yang and Adrian Henle used honey bee toxicity data from pesticide exposure experiments, involving nearly 400 different pesticide molecules, to train an algorithm to predict if a new pesticide molecule would be toxic to honey bees.
“The model represents pesticide molecules by the set of random walks on their molecular graphs,” Yang said.
A random walk is a mathematical concept that describes any meandering path, such as on the complicated chemical structure of a pesticide, where each step along the path is decided by chance, as if by coin tosses.
Imagine, Yang explains, that you're out for an aimless stroll along a pesticide's chemical structure, making your way from atom to atom via the bonds that hold the compound together. You travel in random directions but keep track of your route, the sequence of atoms and bonds that you visit. Then you go out on a different molecule, comparing the series of twists and turns to what you've done before.
“The algorithm declares two molecules similar if they share many walks with the same sequence of atoms and bonds,” Yang said. “Our model serves as a surrogate for a bee toxicity experiment and can be used to quickly screen proposed pesticide molecules for their toxicity.”
The National Science Foundation supported this research.
The IPM Hour is a monthly online seminar covering a variety of IPM-related topics and research. It's held the second Wednesday of each month at 12 noon Pacific Time and features two 20-minute presentations followed by 10 minutes of discussion each. You can tune in live or check out the recordings on the Western IPM Center YouTube channel.
What Are the UC Ag Experts Talking About?
Join the online crowd
February 19, 2020
Dr. Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell will talk about how insects develop resistance (including examples of resistance in citrus thrips, California red scale, and citricola scale), pesticide use tactics to avoid resistance, the potential for resistance in Asian citrus psyllid, and best practices for citrus pest management. One hour of DPR continuing education unit is approved.
webinar registration at Pesticide Webinar
This presentation is part of the series of 1-hour webinars, designed for growers and Pest Control Advisers, highlighting various pest management and horticultural topics for citrus and avocados. During each session, a UC Expert on the subject will make a presentation and entertain write-in questions via chat during and/or after the presentation. As we develop this program, we may expand to other crops.
- Gibbing in Avocados (Ben Faber, March 2020)
- Citricola scale by Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell (April 2020)
- Invasive shot hole borers in avocado by Akif Eskalen (May 2020)
- Vertebrate pests by Roger Baldwin (June 2020)
- Ants in citrus by Mark Hoddle (July 2020)
- Use of plant growth regulators on citrus by Ashraf El-kereamy (August 2020)
First of all, did it go where it was supposed to go?
I have been at several grower meetings lately where there has been talk of pesticide sprays and the value of coverage. If it's not where you want it, its not going to do it's job and might do some other job you don't want. Some sprays need to be spot on to do their job. “Contact sprays” like pyrethrums, oils and soaps need to contact the pest to knock out the pest. Even translaminar materials, like spinosad and abamectin, need to be in the location of the plant where the pest is feeding for them to work.
So how do you assess coverage? Unless you know where the sprays is going, you don't know whether the spray job worked until after you've wasted time and material to see if the pests are gone. Water sensitive papers placed in the tree can tell you where the spray is going and whether the application is successful. Was the volume right? Was the application speed right? Was too much material applied? Too little? The cards can be used for a quick evaluation of spray distribution, droplet density and canopy penetration.
The water sensitive paper cards are rigid pieces of paper that are yellow in color. They have specially coated surfaces that will stain dark blue when exposed to water-like droplets. The cards are stapled into the before you begin spraying. The upper surface will be stained dark blue when exposed by water. The opposite side of the water sensitive cards is water repellent. They cost about a dollar apiece.
Here are some examples of how to use water sensitive cards:
- Aerial Application for detecting coverage and canopy penetration. Cards can be stapled to the leaves at different heights and depths in the tree.
- Orchard Sprayers for evaluating spray distribution and spray penetration throughout the tree. Cards can be stapled to leaves in the upper, center, and lower portions of the tree.
- Backpack / Handheld Sprayers for evaluating spray distribution and droplet density for herbicide applications. Cards can be placed across one run width to determine spray volume and speed.
You can visually inspect the spray cards by counting the droplets by eye, or if needed, using a hand lens or some of the smart phone apps. Quickly glancing at the card, you can determine areas of over-application or under-application, dripping nozzles, or clogged/defective nozzles. It's easy to see whether the aerial spray was effective.
Photo: Spray patterns with different nozzle sizes and different spray volumes
Tom Wolf, https://sprayers101.com/wsp-coverage/
Registration is now open for Pesticide Safety Instructor Training workshops
UC IPM, with support from the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety (WCAHS), is offering up-to-date instructor training programs that are approved and co-funded by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). The classes will run 8 am to 5 pm and we offer 6.5 hours of DPR continuing education units. They are designed for anyone who has employees – primarily in agriculture – that need to receive the required annual pesticide safety training. Date and location details are below.
October 1, 2019 (ENGLISH)
October 2, 2019 (SPANISH)
669 County Square Drive, Suite 100
Updates to the Federal Worker Protection Standard (WPS) that will have the most impact on pesticide users in California include:
- Annual pesticide safety training for all fieldworkers
- Instructors in agriculture must attend an updated and approved Train-the-Trainer course, and
- Expanded training content for fieldworkers and handlers
Participants who complete this training will become qualified to provide pesticide safety training to fieldworkers and pesticide handlers, as required by California state regulations and the revised Federal Worker Protection Standard (WPS). Visit the workshop website for specific date/location information and to register. 2019 Pesticide Safety Instructor Workshops
Se Abrió la Registración para 2019 Capacitaciones de Instructores de Seguridad de Pesticidas
UC IPM en conjunto WCAHS, ofrece un programa actualizado de capacitación para instructores que es aprobado y co-patrocinado por el Departamento de Regulaciones de Pesticidas de California (DPR). Las clases serán de 8 am a 5 pm y ofrecemos 6.5 horas de unidades de educación continua de DPR. Están diseñados para cualquier persona que tenga empleados, principalmente en agricultura, que necesiten recibir la capacitación anual requerida en seguridad de pesticidas. Los detalles de fecha y ubicación están a continuación.
October 1, 2019 (INGLES)
October 2, 2019 (ESPAÑOL)
669 County Square Drive, Suite 100
Las actualizaciones en el Estándar de Protección del Trabajador (WPS) que tendrán más impacto sobre los que usan pesticidas en California incluyen:
- Entrenamiento anual de seguridad de pesticidas para los trabajadores
- Instructores en agricultura deben asistir a un curso actualizado y aprobado (Train-the-Trainer), y
- Contenido de capacitación ampliado para trabajadores de campo y manipuladores de pesticidas
Los participantes en este programa serán calificados para entrenar a los trabajadores de campo y a los manipuladores de pesticidas, como es requerido por las regulaciones del estado de California, he incluso el Estándar de Protección del Trabajador revisado por EPA.
Visite el sitio web de capacitaciones para obtener información sobre fechas/localidades y para inscribirse. 2019 Capacitaciones de Instructores de Seguridad de Pesticidas