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Study Of Raindrop Energy To Aid Fight Against Crop Diseases

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A sensor that measures the kinetic energy of falling raindrops may one day warn farmers about outbreaks of crop diseases, according to researchers at Ohio State University.

Laurence Madden, a professor of plant pathology, and his students at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster, Ohio, are field-testing a commercial sensor they helped develop to measure the energy of raindrops.

Early results show that the sensor could help explain how rain spreads the fungal spores that cause some crop diseases. One day, weather stations in disease-prone areas may be able to use the sensor to forecast possible outbreaks. This work appeared in a recent issue of the journal Phytopathology.

Madden said that farmers have no way of knowing whether a particular rain shower is the kind that will spread water-borne plant pathogens such as disease-causing fungi.

"With no forecast system to warn of outbreaks, growers have to spray anti-fungal pesticides regularly just to play it safe, so they waste a lot of pesticide," said Madden. "If we could determine whether conditions were favorable for the spread of plant pathogens, growers could make informed decisions on when to use chemicals."

Whether a rain shower will spread these fungi is not a simple question of the amount of rain or duration of the shower, but
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Contact: Laurence Madden
Madden.1@osu.edu
330-263-3833
Ohio State University
30-Nov-1998


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