Tracking the potato late blight pathogen in the atmosphere using unmanned aerial vehicles and Lagrangian modeling

Donald E. Aylor, David G. Schmale, Elson J. Shields, Maria Newcomb, Carmen J. Nappo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


A means for determining the aerial concentration, C (sporangiam-3), of plant pathogenic spores at various distances from a source of inoculum is needed to quantify the potential spread of a plant disease. Values of C for Phytophthora infestans sporangia released from an area source of diseased plants in a potato canopy was quantified in three ways: (1) by using Rotorods to sample the air just above the source, (2) by using unmanned aerial vehicles to sample the air at altitudes up to 90m above the source and at downwind distances up to 500m from the source, and (3) by using a Lagrangian stochastic simulation of sporangia flight trajectories to tie these two measurements together. Experiments were conducted using three potato crops over two years. Model predictions of time-average, crosswind-integrated concentrations were highly correlated (r=0.9) with values of C measured using the unmanned aerial vehicles. The model describes the release and dispersal of sporangia from a potato canopy to a downwind distance of 500m. Thus, it may have utility as a part of an area-wide decision support system by helping to predict risk of disease spread between neighboring or distant potato fields.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-260
Number of pages10
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 15 2011


  • Aerobiology
  • Atmospheric spore transport
  • Disease forecasting
  • Inoculum source strength
  • Modeling
  • Phytophthora infestans
  • Potato late blight
  • Spore dispersal
  • Turbulence
  • Upper air sampling

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