Red Palm Weevil–pest of date palms in Saudi

There is some pretty cool technology being applied and used in agriculture today. This new technological approach is called “precision agriculture”. You can read a lot about the new approaches in the news, and in science and agricultural articles. One new way that date farmers in Saudi can combat the attack of the red palm weevil, is by employing optical fibers and laser tech. Read on in the link at bottom of page. The following is an excerpt taken from the article in, from May 4, 2020.

“The red palm weevil is a flying beetle that feeds on and lays its eggs inside date palms. By the time weevil infestation causes visible signs of distress in the trees, it is too late to save them, explains KAUST research scientist Islam Ashry. “Several methods are currently used to detect red palm weevil infestation, but they are not reliable or feasible in large palm farms,” he says. These methods include using sniffer dogs, screening trees with computer-based tomography, and inserting sound probes into a tree’s trunk to detect the munching sounds of weevil larvae.

While reading an article about the destructive impacts of these infestations, KAUST Professor Boon S. Ooi recognized that his work on photonics could be relevant. “Optical fibers can efficiently detect very weak sound over several kilometers,” he explains. He led a team of researchers, in collaboration with Yousef Al-Fehaid at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, to investigate whether fiber optics could be employed as a cost-effective and noninvasive means to detect the very early munching sounds of young larvae.

They developed an approach that involves sending laser pulses from a sensing device into an optical fiber, which can be wrapped around the trunks of multiple trees over a vast area. Sound interacts with the light signal inside the fiber, changing its frequency. The fiber feeds the data back into the sensor that, with relative accuracy, can inform farmers which trees are healthy and which are infested.”

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