Space-age technology for fight against crop-devastating pest outbreaks
Dec. 7, 2017
Last night, the Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE), which uses state-of-the-art technology to help inform farmers in sub-Saharan Africa of pest outbreaks, was launched in Zambia at the British High Commission in Lusaka. The service is being developed by a consortium led by CABI and is funded by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP).
Datasets obtained from a combination of the plant-pest lifecycle, earth observation and satellite positioning, are being used to spearhead the fight against pests that devastate an estimated 40% of the world’s crops. The project will help farmers fight back against potentially disastrous pests such as the Fall Armyworm.
The project consortium includes UK partners from Assimila, Kings College London, the Centre for Environmental Data Analysis. The technology being deployed better places CABI’s Plantwise plant clinics to give timely alerts and advice to farmers, in person and by tablet or smartphone so they can respond more efficiently to the risks posed to their crops.
Brian Siame, who runs a Plantwise plant clinic in Zambia, said, “This application helps me to communicate with other plant doctors who are part of the group. Despite the long distance between us, we regularly share pictures of pests or diseases and help each other diagnose. A good example is when we had the outbreak of Tuta absoluta and more recently the Fall Armyworm.”
The PRISE project, whose other partners include the Zambia Ministry of Agriculture and the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI), is expected to be rolled out to five further sub-Sarahan African countries in due course.
Cambria Finegold, Global Director, Knowledge Management, said, “CABI’s recent evidence note on Fall Armyworm, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), predicts that this species’ effect on maize losses in just 12 African countries could range from 8.3 to 20.6 million tonnes per year – let alone the risks posed by other pests. It is vital therefore that we use the very latest in technology and work in partnership to bring the best insights on pest population behaviour right to the farmer’s door.”
Ray Fielding, Head of the International Partnership Programme at the UK Space Agency, said: “We are delighted to be working with CABI to help transform the lives of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. The £6.3 million of funding from the UK Space Agency will see CABI provide pest risk predictions in time for farmers to take vital preventive action and thus increase resilience to pest outbreaks. Innovation is essential to provide new solutions to the problem of pest outbreaks, and this project combines novel EO technology, satellite positioning, plant health modelling, and on-the-ground real-time observations to deliver a science-based service for sub-Saharan Africa.”
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