IITA: New app diagnoses crop diseases in the field and alerts rural farmers
29 September 2017 The team behind a new mobile app that uses artificial intelligence to accurately diagnose crop diseases in the field has won a $US100,000 award to help expand their project to help millions of small-scale farmers across Africa.
Cassava brown streak disease is spreading westward across the African continent, and together with cassava mosaic disease, threatens the food and income security of over 30 million farmers in East and Central Africa. Likewise, banana is threatened by fungal and bacterial diseases including the devastating Banana bunchy top virus, while late blight still plagues potato farmers.
Farmers are often unable to properly identify these diseases, while researchers, plant health authorities and extension organizations lack the data to support them.
To stop the spread of these pests and diseases, a team under the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) has developed a revolutionary app to accurately diagnose diseases in the field, which will be combined with SMS services to send alerts to thousands of rural farmers.
“Smartphones are becoming more and more common in rural Africa. Smallholders or extension officers with a basic smartphone with a camera will be able to download the app for free, fire it up, point it at a leaf with disease symptoms and get an instant diagnosis. That is truly revolutionary!” explained Dr. James Legg of the International Institute of Topical Agriculture (IITA), who leads the project together with Dr. David Hughes of Penn State.
The app will also provide the latest management advice for all major diseases and pests of root, tuber and banana crops, and pinpoint the location of the nearest agricultural extension support for farmers.
The team were winners of a $US100,000 grant as part of the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture Inspire Challenges at the Big Data in Agriculture Convention 2017 in Cali, Colombia on 21 September.