Gardening goes digital with new mobile apps

By Tom Hallman

Finally, gardeners can have it both ways: Even in the serenity of the great outdoors, all the resources of modern science are available at their fingertips.

New mobile phone applications created by scientists at Clemson and half a dozen other land-grant schools puts an entire science library – equipped with alerts to warn of major disease and insect pests – right in the gardener's pocket.

"It's sort of like having an expert with you on the job every day," said Sarah A. White, an assistant professor in the Clemson Institute of Environmental Toxicology and, with colleague J.C. Chong at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center, one of the developers of the tool. "The app will send you a text to alert you about pests as they emerge and even remind you about time-sensitive gardening tasks."

The mobile apps cover the gamut, from basic horticultural practices to control of diseases, insect and weeds. They include alerts to current disease and insect threats, information on how to combat them as well as major horticultural practices and recommendations.

The scientists developed two versions of the mobile phone software: a sleek version for the home gardener, called IPMLite, and a super-charged version called IPMPro for "green industry" professionals.

The developers recommend IPMLite for home gardeners and landscaping enthusiasts, Master Gardeners and garden club members.

The apps take their "IPM" name from the practice of "Integrated Pest Management," a technique developed to help farmers manage crop pests by using environmentally friendly methods that take into account biological control – such as the life cycles of plants and pests – as well as chemical controls, like pesticides.

"It's a good-sense approach to pest control," White said. "The IPMLite and IPMPro apps were developed with the most successful, proven methods recommended by leading horticulture and pest management professionals in land-grant universities across the South. Gardeners tend to be a pretty selfsufficient bunch, but no single one of us could have had all this knowledge at our disposal in the field until now."

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