Network Analysis Being Used in Laurel Wilt Research

Laurel wilt is a plant disease causing serious devastation to the South Florida avocado industry. First discovered in a Florida commercial avocado orchard in 2012, the disease has decimated the number of trees in Florida’s orchards, posing a serious threat to the state’s avocado industry. Researchers at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, are working to combat the disease.

A relatively new tool in the UF/IFAS Florida research arsenal against laurel wilt is the HiPerGator supercomputer. This cluster of the latest generation of processors utilizes artificial Intelligence (AI) to achieve computations that can process enormous amounts of data at ultra-high speeds. Taking advantage of this resource is Plant Pathologist Karen Garrett whose work at UF/IFAS extends beyond the here and now.

Garrett is using the network to assess damage from diseases such as laurel wilt. Her work with Al is called network analysis with an objective to deter. As Garrett says:

AI is important to my work because we’re often dealing with scenarios where there are many potential predictors and we have to sort through those all. So machine learning is an important tool for helping us figure out which variables are important as predictors to help us understand the system and to incorporate those into the kind of models that we create for decision support.”

Those models are determining how laurel wilt behavior is likely to change under widely varying conditions. To Garrett, finding the answer to one question is paramount: “How would it tend to spread based on what we know about it?” Garrett adds, “We have the observations of people in Florida so we can observe what’s happening in Florida. So we also need to think about how to extrapolate those observations to other places where it’s not present yet, to understand what people there might be able to do to help contain it when it arrives there.”

Garrett explains how one model being developed will show probabilities of successful outcomes to different strategies:

One of our interests is developing models of the system so we can give feedback for government agencies about the likely outcomes were they to try these different kinds of strategies to help manage the laurel wilt epidemic.”

For more information on laurel wilt research, visit the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center’s website: Introduction of Laurel Wilt Threat to Avocado to Florida’s Avocados

Learn more: Laurel Wilt Disease Susceptibility Study


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Posted: October 17, 2023

Category: AGRICULTURE, , UF/IFAS Research
Tags: Artificial Intelligence, Laurel Wilt, Network Analysis

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