Upgrading the content and delivery of the web-based weed management tool

Project Code PRR11-080

Project Lead

Jason Griffiths  Creative Donkeys

Objective

To develop a smart phone application for weed management that improves grower knowledge and increases adoption of reduced risk weed control strategies in field crops

Summary of Results

Background

Weedinfo.ca is a bilingual, web-based weed identification and management decision making tool previously developed through a project supported by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Pest Management Centre. Initially, the tool comprised a database of 20 of the most common weed species of soybean and corn, and information on the best management practices available. Since its launch in 2007, over 100 new weed species have been added to the English version of the weedinfo.ca database and multiple sources have been referring users to this site, including mainstream media outlets as well as social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. This on-line tool, hosted on the official website of the Canadian Weed Science Society receives over 100,000 visitors annually and has assisted growers in identifying weed species and making informed weed management decisions leading to reduced use of chemical herbicides.

It is currently estimated that over 25% of users access the tool from mobile devices, and that this trend is steadily growing. Given the high demand and interest for the database from smart phone users, a preliminary mobile version was created in 2010 at m.weedinfo.com, which allowed users to view content on their handheld devices during critical decision-making periods of weed management needs in the field. However, most of the information in the original mobile version was presented as PDF files, making it difficult to navigate through on a handheld device screen.

The objective of this project was to re-structure the information contained in the weedinfo.ca database for improved delivery and access to output for smart phone users, and to expand search capabilities. The project also involved updating the French content of the online database with new weed species.

Approaches

Given that there is limited screen space and small keypads and/or touch screen areas on the majority of mobile devices, a more compact mobile version of the online interface of the weed database was created. User experience with the new interface was assessed by field testing the site through direct client surveys, through a laboratory assignment in the undergraduate weed science course at the University of Guelph, and through public presentations at three main grower meetings in Ontario during the winter of 2012. The results from field testing helped the developers to address remaining operational issues and fine-tune the delivery of the tool.

New content on an additional 30 key weed species appearing in the English website was translated and incorporated into the French version of the website (mauvaisesherbes.ca).

Results

The expanded and updated weedinfo.ca and mauvaisesherbes.ca websites were launched in April 2012, along with the upgraded smart phone application of the tool (m.weedinfo.com). Overall, the current database of this tool includes 137 weed species available through the English site (weedinfo.ca) and 50 weed species available through the French site (mauvaisesherbes.ca). The upgraded tool has a more powerful platform and better search capabilities, is simpler and more intuitive to use, and clearly displays the features of the target weed species and respective management options available. It also indicates how these solutions compare to one another based on their relative environmental impact. As such, the tool will assist growers in making informed decisions about best weed management practices in corn, soybean and cereal crops.

Presentations and field tests have played an important educational role, training growers and potential users on how to navigate the tool and how to use the information generated from the search queries. Continuous tracking of the number of visits to the website has indicated a substantial increase in the flow of traffic following presentations at grower meetings.

The tool will continue to be delivered through the Canadian Weed Science. For more information, please contact Mike Cowbrough of Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

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