Archive for the ‘Pest diagnostics’ Category

The Plantwise Blog


New coalition puts knowledge and skills into the hands of those who need it


CABI has joined forces with the ISEAL Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Coalition in the fight to implement better, less chemical-dependent, ways for farmers to manage agricultural pests and diseases that account for around 40% of lost crops worldwide. By linking with the Plantwise Knowledge Bank, the coalition aims to share knowledge on sustainable pest management strategies, strengthen knowledge exchanges on alternative methods for pest management, as well as identifying and focusing on specific pest-disease.

Cambria Finegold, Global Director, Knowledge Management, at CABI, said, “One of the ways in which CABI works to help the 500 million smallholder farmers around the world grow more and lose less is to present them with the latest knowledge and advise on how to tackle devastating pest and diseases. “Our partnership with the ISEAL IPM Coalition is a major step forward in disseminating the very best in information and expertise into the hands of those who need it to grow healthy and sustainable crops but also protect their livelihoods.”

Other areas of cooperation as part of the new agreement includes exploring the possibilities to train Plantwise plant doctors  on sustainability standards and promote the exchange of knowledge and experiences on integrated pest management. The partnership will also explore the possibilities to implement pest-specific integrated pest management events and workshops as well as sharing examples of good practice and alternatives to pesticides.

For the IPM coalition, the technical and field experience of nine standard systems covering many countries and diverse production systems combined with Plantwise’s rich information about alternative pest control methods provide a great opportunity for technicians of farms, fields and forests to responsibly offer the best available information for least toxic chemical or non-chemical pest control methods. The dissemination of this upgraded information package to thousands of stakeholders of the IPM coalition members will not only lead to transparent information about sustainable pest management, but most importantly contribute to a more informed selection of pest control alternatives with the least environmental and human impacts.

The IPM Integrated Pest Management Coalition is composed by ISEAL Alliance members: Better Cotton InitiativeBonsucroFairtrade InternationalForest Stewardship CouncilGlobal Coffee PlatformRoundtable on Sustainable BiomaterialsGolf Environment OrganizationSustainable Agriculture Network and Rainforest Alliance. The overall long term goal of the coalition is to reduce or eliminate the use of Highly Hazardous Pesticides and to achieve a significant reduction of pesticide risks to health and the environment with effective standard and certification system’s tools.

For more information on the coalition, visit http://www.ipm-coalition.org

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Plantix 4Plantwise and the German-based company PEAT (Progressive Environmental & Agricultural Technologies) are about to conduct an 18-month pilot study to assess the benefits of PEAT’s smartphone app Plantix, which identifies plant pests, diseases and nutrient deficiencies in the field.

The app further offers advice on remedies ranging from conventional control options to preventive measures and bio-pesticide control. This includes a community feature where agricultural stakeholders can exchange their knowledge. The goal of the common project is to evaluate and further improve Plantix’ detection rate and put a stronger emphasis on control options that are less harmful but very effective such as biological treatments and Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

Scientists will be using Plantwise plant clinics run by MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in Tamil Nadu, India and their network of plant doctors to evaluate and improve the Plantix app, developed by PEAT. The app utilises the smartphone’s camera to deliver automatic image recognition-based diagnosis of pests, diseases and nutrient deficiencies affecting rice, groundnut, brinjal, chillies and banana in Tamil Nadu.

Plantix has been developed to give plant doctors as well as extension workers and farmers an improved ability to identify economically-important insect pests, diseases and nutrient deficiencies and manage them in order to safeguard crops and livelihoods. Mike Reeve, Innovations Manager at CABI, said: “With suitable training, the Plantix app is able to provide a rapid diagnosis of plant pests and diseases and, through its built-in community platform, can then offer treatment advice. Automated analysis of smartphone images has enormous potential, especially where there is lack of expert human diagnosis in the field, and we are delighted to be collaborating with PEAT to evaluate and further develop this technology in Tamil Nadu.”

plantix-2-e1520506689161.jpgThe app works by employing Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Deep Neural Networks, or DNNs. The software also has the ability to be multi-lingual and is currently available in Hindi, Telugu and English in India as well as five other languages for use in other countries. During this year, six other local Indian languages will also be launched.

Malvika Chaudhary, Asia Regional Coordinator, Plantwise, said, “Crop losses are mainly caused by plant diseases, weeds, pests and soil-nutrient deficiencies. It is important that we use technologies such as Plantix to identify and diagnose problems quickly so that remedies can be applied to prevent further losses.

Working as part of the wider Plantwise plant clinic network, and using data gained from the Plantwise Knowledge Bank, Plantix can be a valuable tool in offering effective pest management advice which may include bio-pesticides that are alternatives to the quite toxic, synthetic, pesticides currently in use.”

Looking forward, Plantix can also serve as a citizen-science tool, where extension workers, plant doctors and farmers upload information about insect pests and diseases so that their distribution can be mapped and knowledge of their management improved.

“With the right expertise from CABI and PEAT, we can therefore improve the knowledge and control of diseases and pests in space and time,” says Korbinian Hartberger, Country Manager at PEAT. He sees the potential of the collaboration of PEAT and CABI in Tamil Nadu as very beneficial on various additional levels. “The most important benefit, however, will be for the farmers, that will gain access to a sound decision support tool that helps them produce more in a more sustainable manner.”

For more on Plantix go to www.plantix.net

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  • SriLankaeplant
Plant clinics in Sri Lanka, known as the Permanent Crop Clinic Programme, continue to grow and modernize throughout the country. After successfully rolling out e-plant clinics in several provinces in Sri Lanka, the younger generation of agricultural extension workers is now feeling just as confident in solving crop health issues as their senior colleagues did in the past. Nevertheless, some older farmers do not always take the advice from younger extension workers believing that their years of experience in farming is much greater than the age of “such young extensionists”.

Plantwise Sri Lanka hosted the annual progress review and way forward meeting in December where a number of partners echoed that having an expert in the plant clinics would attract more farmers and in particular convince older farmers to attend the clinic. However, bringing together experts and plant doctors to conduct plant clinics in remote areas presents some practical and operational issues.

By embedding growing communication technologies and bringing experts into the existing plant clinics remotely, the Department of Agriculture has started a Skype service, therefore hitting two mangoes with one stone. The Skype service was launched on 15 February 2018 at Rathnapuram village in Kilinochchi District.


A plant clinic was organized by the Kilinochchi District Coordinator and plant doctor, Mr. G. Elangeeran in a common hall of the village and it was attended by 24 farmers. Three plant doctors assisted the plant clinic and Mr. A. Vakeesan, CABI Associate, linked farmers remotely with experts on Skype and also translated whenever needed.

The remote advisory service was also organized simultaneously by Mr. S. Periyasamy, Additional Director (Communication), National Agriculture Information and Communication Centre (NAICC) of the Department of Agriculture, Kandy. The NAICC team extended their technical advice with the help of plant pathologist, Dr. Lakmini Priyantha, Additional Director, Seed Certification Services of the Department of Agriculture, Kandy.


Farmers brought along a range of plant samples, including those with more difficult or complex problems, all of which were shown to the experts via Skype video call. To ascertain as much background information as possible, the experts asked sets of questions which the farmers were keen to answer. The majority of samples had suspected viral/bacterial infections which the experts then diagnosed. Shortly after the discussion, the plant doctors used their tablets to record all the problems, and recommendations were made based on the experts’ advice.

This advanced facility proved very useful by providing a platform to remotely connect grassroots farmers with experts who can deliver advice instantly from the Department of Agriculture office. This innovative system will attract more farmers to the clinic and discourage them from getting poor advice from other sources such as neighbours and agro input suppliers. In addition, it provides an opportunity for plant doctors to learn more on integrated crop management.

Cyber extension units of Agriculture Extension Centres could be incorporated with the Skype service to deliver better advice for farmers in the future. However, it does require very good mobile signal strength or cable-connected internet to carry out Skype video calls with little hindrance. This is the only limiting factor to having a such a service in all cyber extension units of the Agriculture Extension Centres in Sri Lanka.

The service enhances the existing plant clinics and shows how both farming and agricultural advisory services are improving and evolving in Sri Lanka.

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Released: 2-Nov-2017 6:05 PM EDT

Source Newsroom: South Dakota State University

  • Under moist conditions, the Diaporthe pathogens on these soybean stems multiply.

  • South Dakota State University field crops pathologist Febina Mathew and Kristina Petrović, a visiting scientist from Serbia, examine soybeans for evidence of stem canker, focusing on the nodes or joints. Not only is this disease hard to distinguish from other soybean diseases, but the pathogen can be transmitted through the seeds.

  • Reddish brown lesions, particularly at the joint or node, are indications of soybean stem canker.

  • Kristina Petrović, a visiting scientist from Serbia, examines Diaporthe pathogens isolated from soybeans that farmers, crop consultants and soybean researchers across the United States have sent to South Dakota State University field crop pathologist Febina Mathew.

  • Newswise — Scouting soybean fields and identifying diseases are some of the tasks that Kristina Petrović performs as a research associate at the Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops in Serbia. She is expanding her work on pathogens that affect soybeans as a visiting scientist at South Dakota State University, where she is working with field crops pathologist Febina Mathew, an assistant professor in the Department of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science.

“I am happy when I find disease,” Petrović quipped. She was the first to report that three species of Diaporthe, the pathogen that causes stem canker of soybean, were triggering Phomopsis seed decay in Serbia. Petrović published two papers on her findings in Plant Disease, an American Phytopathological Society journal. When she told the journal editor that she wanted to do postdoctoral research in the United States, he circulated her credentials among the society’s members.

“After four days, Febina invited me to South Dakota State University to examine the Diaporthe species causing soybean disease in the United States,” Petrović recalled. Her 10-month residency, which began in August, is supported by a grant from the Serbian government and funding from the Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops. She also received support for her SDSU research from the North Central Soybean Research Program and the South Dakota Agricultural Experimental Station.

The world has two main types of stem canker—the Northern variety, which likes cool temperatures and affects both South Dakota and Serbian soybeans, and the Southern, which can survive high temperatures. Both types like moisture, Petrović explained.

Plants are infected when raindrops hit pathogen-containing plant residue and splash the fungus spores onto the young soybean plants. “At the end of July or beginning of August, when soybeans are in their pod-fill stage, we see the first symptoms, dark brown lesions the spread up and down the plant,” she said.

“Planting resistant genotypes is the best option for producers,” Petrović explained.  In Serbia, she said, “Our genotypes have good field resistance, but not complete resistance. However, we are trying to find the most resistant or tolerant soybean genotypes.”

In the United States, five Diaporthe species are causing soybean disease, according to Mathew. She and North Dakota State University Extension Plant Pathologist Sam Markell found Diaporthe gulyae, which causes Phomopsis stem canker in sunflowers, associated with stem disease on soybeans.

Recently plant scientists have seen an increase in soybean diseases caused by Diaporthe (Phomopsis) species in the United States, according to Mathew. Petrović’s research will help identify the pathogens behind this increased disease prevalence.

“I want to know more about the relationship among the Diaporthe species,” said Petrović. To do this, she’ll examine the pathogens’ diversity using phylogenetics. She and Mathew will also screen soybean genotypes to identify sources of resistance to Diaporthe species that will help breeders develop resistant soybean cultivars.

This research will help scientists develop strategies to manage the disease that will benefit farmers not only in the United States, but also in Serbia.



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Soybean Disease Diagnostic Guide

Dr. Glen Hartman collaborated with the Soybean Innovation Lab to develop a new diagnostic guide for the identification of soybean diseases and pests specifically designed for use in Africa.

The first step in the treatment and management of plant diseases is identification. In tropical environments like Sub-Saharan Africa, a variety of soybean diseases like soybean rust, bacterial pustule and frogeye leaf spot continue to plague plant breeders and smallholder farmers by destroying crops and causing drastic decreases in yields. Lower yields impede plant breeders from intensifying their breeding programs and cause smallholders to lose potential profits.

The diagnostic guide will inform soybean breeders on what diseases they need to breed resistance to, help agronomic researchers design better disease prevention strategies, and provides farmers with another resource to increase their soybean yields.


Click here to access the guide.


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Daily Nation

Technology will help farmers identify crop diseases and the nearest support system



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1 day ago

A team of scientists has developed a mobile phone application which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to accurately identify crop diseases in the field.

The app also delivers the latest advice to manage all major diseases and pests that affect root, tuber and banana crops, and helps farmers identify the nearest agricultural extension support for the farmers.

The project which is being implemented by a global network of scientists is part of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research’s (CGIAR) research programme on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB).

“As smartphones become more common in rural Africa, they also become handy in agricultural productivity.

“Smallholder farmers or extension officials having basic smartphones with a camera can download the application free of charge, run it up and point the camera at a leaf that has disease indications. They will then get an immediate diagnosis of the disease affecting the plant.” said Dr James Legg, a researcher at the (IITA), in Tanzania, who heads the project alongside Dr David Hughes of Penn State University.

Cassava brown streak and cassava mosaic diseases have for a long time been a threat to food security and income generation of over 30 million farmers in East and Central Africa.

Similarly, the region’s banana production is vulnerable to fungal and bacterial diseases such as the devastating banana bunchy top virus and while late blight which beleaguer potato farmers.

Rural farmers are often incapable of properly identifying these diseases, while researchers, plant health experts and extension officials lack the data to support them, hence the significance of this development.

The current app was developed to help identify cassava diseases, but the team of developers/researchers  was awarded Sh10 million in grants as part of CGIAR’s platform for Big Data in Agriculture Inspire Challenge in September, to help them expand the application to other root, tuber and banana crops that are key food sources.

This will in turn boost nutrition and income security for many farmers.

In the application’s initial development, careful fieldwork involving cameras, spectrophotometers and drones at cassava field sites in coastal Tanzania and on farms in western Kenya generated more than 200,000 images of diseased crops to train the system’s AI algorithms.

Using these images, the scientists advanced an AI process that is able to automatically classify five cassava diseases, and by involving tech company, Google, the team was able to develop the smartphone application using TensorFlow, an open-source software library for machine learning across a range of tasks.

The system is currently under field-test in Tanzania.

Penn State University has also developed a mobile spectrophotometer through a small firm called Croptix, whose initial results indicate it can accurately diagnose different viral diseases in the field, even when the plant looks healthy.

“The application similarly uses AI in real time so the farmer can be an active contributor in disease diagnosis and plant health management, hence more yields for smallholder farmers.

“It is similarly groundbreaking because our AI is based on research from scientists at CGIAR and RTB, who are among the world’s best human intelligence on African crops,” said Dr Hughes.

The team has established a working association with Vodafone’s agriculture SMS platform, DigiFarm, which will allow them to link digital diagnostics to largescale text messaging services used by rural farmers.

It will in turn deliver farmer-tailored SMS alerts on crop diseases and pests to 350,000 Kenyan farmers by July 2018.


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Machine Learning Helps Small Farmers Identify Plant Pests And Diseases

A new app aims to help smallholder farmers fight pests and diseases that are killing their crops.

Machine Learning Helps Small Farmers Identify Plant Pests And Diseases
[Photo: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg/Getty Images]

The world’s 500 million smallholder farmers have a new weapon in their never-ending fight against pests and plant diseases: an app called Plantix. By uploading pictures of affected crops to the mobile service, they can quickly diagnose unwanted funguses and insects and get ideas about how to deal with infestations before they get out of control. Three years after launch, the app is being used more than 1 million times a month, particularly in India, Brazil, and North Africa.

[Photo: courtesy Plantix]

In Africa, the current number-one enemy pest is the fall armyworm–so-called because it marches like an advanced military unit, eating everything in its path. The colorful caterpillars are munching through maize, sorghum, rice, and legume fields in 24 countries. If farmers don’t react in time–for example by spraying with the appropriate pesticides–economic losses could reach more than $5 billion this year, estimates show.The UN Food & Agricultural Organization says 20% to 40% of all global crops are lost each year because of plant pests and diseases that aren’t managed properly. Developed by a small team in Germany, Plantix offers guidance to farmers who don’t have the privilege of human consultants.


“There’s a huge gap between agricultural consultancy and people’s needs on the ground in emerging countries,” says Korbinian Hartberger, one of four cofounders of PEAT, the startup that develops the free-to-use app. “There’s a lot more demand than what’s on offer. They can’t wait for someone to come along two months [after the infestation] and say, ‘yes, I think you should have sprayed this.’”

The Android interface is simple but makes use of sophisticated machine learning technology working in the background. PEAT has trained its algorithms using thousands of pictures of affected plants, allowing the app to recognize telltale patterns as farmers upload new pictures. They’re currently sending in about 5,000 pictures a day and the app is able to recognize up to 400 diseases or pests. The most common include soya bean and wheat rust, powdery and downy mildews, and aphids, Hartberger says.

As well as automated image recognition, the app also features community forums, where users help each other diagnose problems from uploaded photos. About 200,000 users are actively using the service, according to the startup.

PEAT was initially funded through a grant from the German government and it doesn’t generate revenue currently. Hartberger says that could change in the future. For instance, the system could be adapted for use in aerial drones or on-the-ground robots, or it could help connect farmers with sellers of agricultural products. Currently, it suggests generic pesticides, but not brand names.

“People may use more pesticides [after using the app], but they’re less likely to use the wrong pesticides. Our contribution is to smallholders with fast and reliable information, so they’re not just going to shop and asking the guy behind the counter for advice. It gives them something more specific they can work with,” Hartberger says.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.


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