Smartphone Apps to Help You ID Weeds
We love our smartphones and we spend a lot of time on them. According to Statista.com, the average U.S. smartphone user spends more than 2,000 minutes per month using mobile applications (apps).
Most of the time we are focused on apps that are designed for socializing, gaming, and other forms of entertainment. However, it is important to know that there are applications that have been specifically developed to meet agricultural and horticultural needs. Some of these tools can even assist with weed control by helping growers identify weeds in their production systems.
Why is weed identification important? Simply stated, because not all vegetation control strategies are equally effective against all weed species. To select the most effective herbicide (or combinations of herbicides), it is crucial that applicators know what species are present.
There are several mobile phone applications designed to help with weed identification, although this article will only cover two: ID Weeds and [email protected] The ID Weeds app, which was created by the University of Missouri, is primarily focused on species common to the Midwestern U.S., but can still be of use to growers in other parts of the country.
This app lets you compile a “list of suspects” by inputting the characteristics that describe your unknown specimen. These attributes include: whether a species is a grass or a broadleaf weed, where the species is found, how the leaf margins appear, if the leaves and stems are hairy or not, and what the flowers look like, among others. The ID Weeds app then provides information and corresponding images about possible taxonomic matches.
You also can search for a weed species, directly, by choosing your species of interest from an alphabetized list (just as you would use a traditional ID book).
The [email protected] app, which is the result of a collaboration among several French institutions, also allows you to search for a species by name and then provides images of that plant for you to view. More importantly, perhaps, this app allows you to upload a picture of a leaf, flower, fruit, or bark and then compares your photo with a database of images using visual recognition software.
Images should be focused on individual plant parts/structures. Care should be taken to minimize the number of background features that could affect the analysis and reduce your chances of attaining a proper ID. The app provides the user with a link to a given species’ Wikipedia entry in case more information is desired. Multiple projects are featured in the app, allowing users to search through databases of species common to Europe, Canada, the U.S., Northern Africa, etc.
As the species lists and image galleries are expanded, the functionality of the apps will increase. It is not reasonable to expect that these tools will be 100% effective; however, these programs can be very useful when trying to narrow the spectrum of possible weeds. It is always good practice to double-check if you are not certain about an identification. Recommended printed guides for identifying weed species include: Weeds of the West, 5th Edition (Burrill et al.) and Weeds of California and Other Western States (2-Volume Set) (DiTomaso).