‘Cracking the code’ of woody weed spread with machine-learnt algorithms

rotor-cipher-machine-1147801_1920
Machine learning algorithms have their origins in early ‘computers’ such as the German WW2 ciphering Enigma machine

A scientific tool which has its principles in early ‘computers’ such as the German WW2 Enigma machine – used to convey secret commercial, diplomatic and military communication – is helping to map the fractional cover of the woody weed Prosopis juliflora across the Afar Region of Ethiopia.

PhD Candidate Hailu Shiferaw from Addis Ababa University, who is being supervised by CABI’s Dr Urs Schaffner, Professor Woldeamlak Bewket (AAU) and Dr Sandra Eckert (Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern), has compared the performances of five Machine Learning Algorithms (MLAs) to test their ability at mapping the fractional cover/abundance and distribution of Invasive Alien Plant Species (IAPS) – particularly Prosopis which has already devastated an area equivalent to half of neighbouring Djibouti.

Continue reading

Can a ‘diet’ of digital data really help feed the world?

data map

Last week (29 January 2019) CABI was awarded a $1.49 million grant from the Gates Foundation to work with them to help increase food security in India and Ethiopia through better access to data on soil health, agronomy and fertilizers.  In this blog Communications Manager Wayne Coles looks at whether or not the use of digital data in agriculture can have a real impact on our need to feed the world….

The facts are clear; if we’re to stand any chance of feeding a global population of around 9.1 billion by 2050 we must make better use of ‘digital data’ to unlock the potential of more than 570 million smallholder farmers around the world.

The complexity of Africa’s growing food problem, which is exacerbated by social and climatic factors, should not be underestimated. Its population, for example, will exceed 42 million a year over the next three decades while a rise in extreme weather events will wreak havoc on farming communities already grappling with threats to crop yields from a range of agricultural pests and diseases.

Continue reading

The demise of banana has been greatly exaggerated, but…

By David R Jones

The demise of the banana has been in the news regularly since a 2003 article in The New Scientist suggested that the crop may be extinct within 10 years. However, recent data indicate that between 2000 and 2017, global production of bananas grew at a compound annual rate of 3.2%, reaching a record of 114 million tonnes in 2017, up from around 67 million tonnes in 2000. Not bad for a crop that was supposedly on its death bed!

plate 2.1
Cavendish cultivar with no functional leaves in a plantation in Costa Rica after being left unprotected from Pseudocerscospora fijienis (photo: M. Sanchez and M Guzman, CORBANA)

Continue reading

Cabbage stem flea beetle and aphids are the curse of every farmer, but CABI and CHAP may have a solution

 

Psylliodes chrysocephala (cabbage stem flea beetle); adult.
Crop pest: The cabbage stem flea beetle – Psylliodes chrysocephalus

By 2050 there could be as many as 10 billion mouths to feed across the world. This is now a much-repeated fact, as is the growing demand for sustainable produce with reduced chemical inputs and environmental impact. In short, there is a need to produce more and more food, with fewer and fewer inputs to protect the environment, increase productivity and minimise costs.

This is where CHAP (Crop Health and Protection), based at Sand Hutton near York, one of the Government’s four Agri-Tech Centres, supported by Innovate UK, comes in. It has been charged with the task of finding scientific and technological solutions to the practical problems facing growers. Working with its 12 Partners, one of which is CABI working from its laboratories based in Egham in Surrey, its priority is to develop and trial solutions to transform crop production so that they can be brought to market on a large scale.

Continue reading

Is parthenium weed allergy problem worse than that of annual ragweed?

A small clump of field-growing parthenium weed plants approximately 80 days old
Photo Credit: S. Adkins

By Asad Shabbir

Parthenium weed and annual ragweed are closely related members of the Asteraceae, known for their high allergenicity. The detrimental effects on human health of the more temperate annual ragweed are very well known. However, those of the more tropical parthenium weed are less well known and in fact much more severe, affecting many tens of millions of people each year.

Continue reading

The time is ripe for climate adaptation in agriculture

climate-change-1325882_1920

By Janny Vos, Director of Strategic Partnerships at CABI

I recently attended the launch of the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) in The Hague where the words of the CEO of the World Bank – Kristalina Georgieva – resonated strongly with my work as part of an organisation that aims to improve people’s lives worldwide by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment. In a nutshell, it’s all about working together as we aim to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Ms Georgieva said, “What is new is the scope, the speed and the scale at which we must work to adapt to climate change. And it is cost effective as the returns on investments will be high.” CABI’s primary interests are helping farmers to grow more and lose less to agricultural pests and diseases, and the ‘returns on investments’ are indeed ‘high’ – they’re ultimately about securing food and nutrition security for the world’s growing population.

Continue reading

Empowering more women in the fight against fruit flies in Pakistan

PRMP females

More women in the Gilgit Baltistan (GB) region of Pakistan are benefiting from a Phytosanitary Risk Management Programme (PRMP) aimed at using a range of biological controls to fight the fruit fly pest which can impact heavily on rice and horticultural crops.

PRMP, which is funded by USAID via United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), was initiated in GB in 2016 with the purpose of implementing the biological control of fruit flies in the region. A Biological Control Laboratory was established to develop mass rearing technologies to facilitate the augmentative releases of the Biological Control Agents (BCA) of fruit flies Dirhinus giffardi and Diachasmimorpha longicaudata. So far, around 400,000 BCAs of fruit flies have been released in the region to control the pest.

PRMP graph1

Pakistan’s agriculture sector plays a central role in the economy of the country as it contributes 18.9 percent to the GDP. Almost 42.3 percent of its population is directly involved in this sector of which 73.8 percent employment is held by women.

Continue reading