Light sensors detect larval pests munching on date palms

May 06, 2020

A red beetle, classed as the most destructive date palm pest, causes millions of dollars of annual economic losses worldwide. Now, a small team in Saudi Arabia has found a cost-effective approach that uses laser pulses to detect the very early stages of infestation, giving farmers enough time to save their trees.

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 made by 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.

Before using their system, the researchers recorded 12-day-old larvae to identify their sound signature. They also recorded and identified the sound signatures of typical background noises, like wind and birds. The frequencies of the sounds were different enough that they could apply a filter to their sensor that discards most irrelevant noises. They also developed an algorithm that analyzes the incoming signal to flesh out larval noises.

Lab-based tests on small trees demonstrated that the system reliably distinguished healthy trees from infested ones.

"Our sensor can provide noninvasive, 24/7, low-cost, simultaneous monitoring of around 1,000 palm trees with a 10-kilometer-long optic fiber, detecting larvae that are as young as 12 days old," says KAUST research scientist Yuan Mao.

The team next plans to deploy their sensing system in large-scale, open-air farms. "This will require modifications to the system to include advanced signal processing techniques that can discard the noises found in these environments," says Ashry.

King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST)

Related Laser Pulses Articles from Brightsurf:

QCLs exhibit extreme pulses
Based on a quantum cascade laser (QCL) emitting mid-infrared light, the researchers developed a basic optical neuron system operating 10,000× faster than biological neurons.

Finding the right colour to control magnets with laser pulses
Scientists have discovered a new way to manipulate magnets with laser light pulses shorter than a trillionth of a second.

Spintronics: Faster data processing through ultrashort electric pulses
Physicists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and Lanzhou University in China developed a simple concept that could improve significantly magnetic-based data processing.

New compressor delivers above-terawatt 1.5-cycle pulses at kilohertz repetition rate
Researchers at the Max Born Institute for Nonlinear Optics and Short Pulse Spectroscopy (MBI) have reached a new milestone in few-cycle pulse generation, breaking a 10-year-old record and achieving 1.5-optical-cycle-long laser pulses with 1.2 terawatt peak power by a new high-energy hollow fiber compressor beamline.

Few-cycle pulses break the 300 W barrier
A team led by researchers from the Max Born Institute for Nonlinear Optics and Short Pulse Spectroscopy (MBI), Laser-Laboratorium Goettingen (LLG) and Active Fiber Systems (AFS) has generated multi-millijoule 3-cycle pulses at 318 W average power level.

Photosynthesis seen in a new light by rapid X-ray pulses
In a new study, led by Petra Fromme and Nadia Zatsepin at the Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery, the School of Molecular Sciences and the Department of Physics at ASU, researchers investigated the structure of Photosystem I (PSI) with ultrashort X-ray pulses at the European X-ray Free Electron Laser (EuXFEL), located in Hamburg, Germany.

Electrochemistry to benefit photonics: Nanotubes can control laser pulses
An international team of scientists led by researchers from the Laboratory of Nanomaterials at the Skoltech Center for Photonics and Quantum Materials (CPQM) has shown that the nonlinear optical response of carbon nanotubes can be controlled by electrochemical gating.

Magnetic plasma pulses excited by UK-size swirls in the solar atmosphere
An international team of scientists led by the University of Sheffield have discovered previously undetected observational evidence of frequent energetic wave pulses the size of the UK, transporting energy from the solar surface to the higher solar atmosphere.

Laser trick produces high-energy terahertz pulses
A team of scientists from DESY and the University of Hamburg has achieved an important milestone in the quest for a new type of compact particle accelerator.

Energy-free superfast computing invented by scientists using light pulses
The invention uses magnets to record computer data which consume virtually zero energy, solving the dilemma of how to create faster data processing speeds without high energy costs.

Read More: Laser Pulses News and Laser Pulses Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to