Using artificial intelligence, scientists created an easy-to-use tool to detect banana diseases and pests.
A new smartphone tool developed for banana farmers scans plants for signs of 5 major diseases and 1 common pest.
In testing in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Benin, China, and Uganda, the tool provided a 90 percent successful detection rate.
This work is a step towards creating a satellite-powered, globally connected network to control disease and pest outbreaks, say the researchers who developed the technology.
“Farmers around the world struggle to defend their crops from pests and diseases,” said Michael Selvaraj, who developed the tool with colleagues from Bioversity International in Africa. “There is very little data on banana pests and diseases for low-income countries, but an AI tool such as this one offers an opportunity to improve crop surveillance, fast-track control and mitigation efforts, and help farmers to prevent production losses.”
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The tool is built into an app called Tumaini — which means “hope” in Swahili — and is designed to help smallholder banana growers quickly detect a disease or pest and prevent a wide outbreak from happening. The app aims to link them to extension workers to quickly stem the outbreak. It can also upload data to a global system for large-scale monitoring and control. The app’s goal is to facilitate a robust and easily deployable response to support banana farmers in need of crop disease control.
Rapid improvements in image-recognition technology made the Tumaini app possible. To build it, researchers uploaded 20,000 images that depicted various visible banana disease and pest symptoms. With this information, the app scans photos of parts of the fruit, bunch, or plant to determine the nature of the disease or pest. It then provides the steps necessary to address the specific disease. In addition, the app also records the data, including geographic location, and feeds it into a larger database.