Menu Close

A Scalable Early Warning System: Electronic Detection of Corn Rootworm Beetles With a Microcontroller-Based Sensor Network

Project Team


The loss in farm revenue associated with corn rootworm infestations in the United States is greater than a billion dollars per year. Adult females begin producing eggs a few weeks after emergence, typically in mid July. The adult beetles can be monitored using an adhesive trap strapped to a corn stalk. However, it is burdensome to inspect the dozens of traps recommended to be deployed in a typical Illinois corn field: by late July the densely planted corn is tall, and it is difficult to walk the rows of a large field. This discourages on-site monitoring of farms for this pest, resulting in over-application of insecticides and other controls.

We propose to automate the inspection of planar insect traps with an inexpensive grid of computer-controlled sensors, each communicating with a base station through a radio link. Each sensor station would include a radio-capable microcontroller, a medium resolution camera, a GPS receiver, and sensors to measure temperature, atmospheric pressure, relative humidity, and airborne volatile organic compound concentrations. A small photovoltaic cell would recharge the station’s battery during daylight hours. It should be possible to interrogate each station a dozen times per hour.

The recent rise of a do-it-yourself “maker culture” has opened a significant market to manufacturers of inexpensive microcontrollers and sensors. We hope to take advantage of this, and will discuss the cost per station in the body of our proposal. We are requesting support to build a proof-of-concept system with three stations and one base station.