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

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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.

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“Work hard and always try to give your best. No matter what people say, always give your best”

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Dr Yelitza Colmenarez – proud to have received the award of ‘Scientist of the Year’ in 2008 given by the Ministry of Agriculture in Barbados

To mark the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science  today (11 February 2019), we speak to some of CABI’s women working in science. In this blog Dr Yelitza Colmenarez, Director CABI Brazil Centre and Regional Coordinator for the Plantwise programme – Latin America and the Caribbean, reveals the motivation and inspiration behind her career in science communications and says her mother and grandfather’s advice has helped her overcome barriers faced as a professional woman.

What motivated you to work in science and development?

I grew up in a rural agricultural community. Taking as an example my grandfather, who was a farmer, I saw from very early in life how difficult it is sometimes for a farmer to maintain good production and profitability. Through the work of applied science in international development projects, it fills me with satisfaction to be able to contribute to helping farmers bring sustainable agricultural technology to their hands in order to strengthen the agricultural production in Latin America and the Caribbean. Thanks to the hard work of the producers we have food at our table and it is a great pleasure to be able to contribute to their benefit.

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“I was and still am motivated by discoveries and surprises that come with science”

 

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Lucy Karanja: the reward for being ‘best in science’ at school was a first aid course with St John Ambulance

To mark the forthcoming UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11 February 2019), we speak to some of CABI’s women working in science. In this blog Lucy Karanja, a Content Manager, reveals the motivation and inspiration behind her career in science communications and says ‘women are all round scientists naturally’. 

What motivated you to work in science and development?

My parents were business people and I did not know anybody in our village who was a scientist. I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up because I admired the way pupils respected teachers. In class 8, we were given a multiple choice science quiz and guess what? I miraculously got 18 out of 20. There were four boys and I was the only girl.

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

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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.

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Fighting the fungi

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You aren’t from a farming family unless you’ve had ringworm. The distinctive red circular pattern which inches up your arm, its characteristic red flaky skin coupled with a burning itch, was probably caught from some four-legged friend. Catching this fungal skin infection is a rite of passage.

If you’ve ever had ringworm you’ll know there are several remedies. Our old housekeeper’s was to paint your rings in clear nail varnish, a bizarre manicure which seals in the fungal spores so they are unable to reproduce and spread.  Medically the best way to eliminate ringworm or Tinea corporis, if affecting the body, is to treat it pharmaceutically with antifungals. Normally slathering the effected spot in a cream containing clotrimazole does the trick. (1) 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.

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Q&A: ‘I emigrated when my lab was turned into barracks’

 

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SciDev.Net – the world’s leading source of reliable and authoritative news, views and analysis about science and technology for global development – is owned by CABI and highlights the role of women in science.

On the eve of the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science next month (11 February) we share this incredible story, by Adel Aldaghbashy, of scientist Ghaneya Al-Naqeeb who fled her war torn homeland of Yemen to seek sanctuary and a new life in science in Germany….

Ghaneya Al-Naqeeb began life in a village near Taiz, the third largest city in Yemen. From there, she pursued an academic career studying plant science in Malaysia, the United States, and then back in her home country at Sana’a University. Along the way, she picked up several international awards and two patents. But in 2017 she fled the war in the country, and now works in Germany.

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