History of RIMpro
RIMpro was first developed in the 90’s by Marc Trapman. Marc had no particular training in building models but was (and still is!) a very good agronomist. His idea was that no matter the technique or the code that is used, a model should be as accurate as possible, and the output should be easy to understand and useful to improve decisions in crop protection.
As consultant, he worked on integrated crop protection at the former experimental orchard ‘De Schuilenburg’ near Wageningen. This is where he started to study scientific literature about crop protection in ago-ecosystems. From his practical consultancy work, he learned what information is needed for effective decisions in crop protection by growers, what is possible for them to do in time and with their machinery, and what not.
Students from Wageningen University, working at ‘De Schuilenburg’, developed simple models for insects as part of their study. That triggered him to learn coding and create tools that allowed him to provide more precise advice to his growers, and minimize the use of pesticides.
In 1999, Marc extended his workfield from Integrated Pest and disease management, to organic Fruit production. With the limited efficacy and small time window for optimal use of the crop protection materials available for organic production, models became de key for effective management of pests and diseases in organic fruit production.
In the late eighties, Marc and some good colleagues, used to make an annual European tour to visit leading fruit crop protection scientists to discuss their latest findings and ideas. Driving back from one of these trips, they concluded that not every fruit grower and consultant can be a scab expert. There is so much detailed information on the infection biology to be considered to estimate the situation, that it is impossible to share that in a bulletin to a fruit grower. Also, it is not possible to run ascospore traps to count spores in each region. And anyhow, the time you can count ejected spores you are to late to react.
The idea for RIMpro was born. All information to interpret a situation should be handed by a computer program. The grower should only get a clear presentation of the situation and be advised on how to act. In 1991 and 1992 Marc wrote the first code and tested that with ascospore data from Italy, Switzerland and southern Germany. In 1993 he gave a talk on this during the IOBC orchard diseases workshop in Lofthus, Norway.
Now, 30 years later, the RIMpro platform offers not only an apple scab model, but rather accurate models for all key pests and diseases to be managed in fruit and wine grape production.
RIMpro has been taken over in January 2021 by the French group Albatros. Raphaël Neve is the new owner of RIMpro and together with Julien Guerrier, they focus on the coding work. Fanny Le Berre who already knew Marc since a couple of years is the new agronomist specialized in fruit and grapes.
Decisions in crop protection
RIMpro’s mission is to reduce the use of agrochemicals and other inputs in agriculture, by optimizing decisions on what products to apply and when to apply them.
In day-to-day decisions regarding crop protection, growers and their consultants use only a fraction of the information available to them. The experiences of predecessors, and the results of more than a century of scientific research are not easily accessible for those who are responsible for the practical decisions. Information is too fragmented, too detailed or too complex, and too contradictory to be of practical help. Publications and information systems seem to be aimed at communication between scientists, not on ‘bottom down’ use to improve reasoning on the practical level. For most growers and consultants personal experience is the most important guide, and reflections are only based on recent years.
In 1996 Bill MacHardy compiled and evaluated all published information in his book on Apple Scab. 545 pages on biology, epidemiology and management of this one disease. Even at that time the book did not cover all aspects of the disease nor all publications, and now we are 25 years wiser.
Most practical apple scab warning systems are still based on a single publication in 1944. The infection criteria published by W.D Mills in: Efficient use of sulphur dusts and sprays during rain to control apple scab. This continues even though it has been proven that the implementation of the Mills table leads to frequent false positive and false negative warnings, and there is no relation between the infection severity as indicated by the Mills table, and the infection severity observed in the field. This information is old and after 1944 important other research results have been published that could help to come to more accurate decisions.
The same applies to other pests and diseases in fruit crops, and many other crops as well: only very little of what is known, is actually used to optimize pest & disease management.
This situation is not improving. Relevant research, independent governmental and non-governmental consultancy services, are declining. Fruit and wine growers have become managers with more important tasks than optimizing their use of agro-chemistry, other than managing the costs. The agrochemical industry and distribution have also taken over the information stream on practical pest and disease management and outnumbered the independent consultants.
Growers in general like to see but do not trust models, and find weather forecast unreliable. Their crop is their income and always exposed to weather conditions. Each spring starts with abundant flower buds, promising a rich harvest. From then it only goes down: insects and diseases change the perspective already before bloom, frost reducing fruit set during bloom, droughts, hailstorms, insects and diseases threatening harvest and quality, even continuing during storage.
Crop protection is what it says: protecting the crop against all kinds of evil. The costs for crop protection are low compared to the financial consequents if things go wrong. Doing an extra spray round to sleep well has its value.
Developing models should really guide a grower ‘when to spray, and when not to spray’ and this comes with a high responsibility to invest in accuracy. The growers using RIMpro learn to trust the model and to follow the model results in equal or better technical results.
Environment and community will only benefit from the use of accurate models that lead growers to equal technical-economical results with a lower input of agro-chemicals.
“All models are wrong, but some are useful”. George E. P. Box
(every single model is wrong, meaning that it will never represent the exact real behaviour. Having said that, even if a model cannot describe exactly the reality it could be very helpful if it is close enough!)