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Research funding to prevent West African cocoa lossesqrcode

Feb. 6, 2020

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Feb. 6, 2020
A consortium of Certis Europe BV, Rail Vision Ltd. and Rothamsted Research in the UK and Positive Agro, agricultural distributor in Ghana, has been awarded a grant over three years by the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) to address the critical and increasing problem of losses associated with the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus (CSSV) disease in West Africa.

The CSSV disease has for many years been a major constraint to cocoa (Theobroma cacao) production in West Africa and has become an internationally recognised crisis that is leading towards increased poverty across the region. Cocoa is the main source of income for over two million smallholder farmers and 10 million people in West and Central Africa. No commercial product or service currently provides cocoa condition and diagnostic data at a localised level for individual plantations to assist in targeted mitigation of the disease. Comprehensive strategies to control and prevent CSSV in the African region are therefore urgently required and depend on effective international collaboration.

This project, to be run in Ghana, aims to develop and commercialise a solution to restrict disease spread and enhance the overall integrated approaches to combat the losses caused by CSSV. Rail Vision’s platform technology (ARIES), based on mathematical models and software tools for satellite and drone imagery data analytics, aims to identify the areas either already infected with CSSV, or regions which are at high risk of being infected in the future.  Other members of the consortium will bring the technical and commercial knowledge and capabilities needed to use the data gathered by drone and satellite to manage and control the disease situation. Trials in Ghana have already shown successful control of the mealy bugs that spread the disease using a biological product, Eradicoat, from Certis Europe. These will be further extended as it becomes possible to target more precisely the areas to be managed.

Through this project, the consortium will develop a platform which can precisely predict the exact location, current infectious status, future risk of the cocoa trees being affected by CSSV and data on plantation condition to mitigate the risk. This will be achieved by incorporating the key factors of canopy cover, plant diversity, tree height, chlorophyll level and tree density. It will provide a tool that helps direct the activation of targeted mitigation steps and thus increase the productivity of the cocoa industry in Ghana to meet the growing demand for cocoa based products whilst protecting the incomes of the cocoa farmers.

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