An RTB innovation: Disease mapping and surveillance made easier through AI-powered app and drone/satellite image analysis
Disease surveillance and mapping have, for a long time, heavily relied on in-person field surveys by knowledgeable staff. However, this approach has been limited by its high cost, often limited human capacity, and difficulty accessing more remote locations. In addition, the inability of farmers and sometimes local extension staff to rightly identify and or differentiate between the different biotic constraints has often hampered timely intervention efforts.
Scientists from the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT have developed an Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered smartphone app called Tumaini, meaning “hope” in Swahili. The app is capable of identifying and differentiating symptoms of six banana diseases: Banana Xanthomas Wilt (BXW), Banana Bunchy Top Disease (BBTD), Fusarium wilt, Banana Blood Disease, Black leaf streak, and other leaf streaks; and a pest (banana weevil).
The app and the full offline version are freely available on Google Play Store and are currently downloadable. So far, the app has over 2000 downloads, and further scaling of the app, envisaged in collaboration with extension and development agencies, will effectively support the management of these key biotic constraints on-farm.
A recent paper, building on fieldwork carried out in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the Benin Republic, has shown that banana fields and production zones can be mapped through both drone and satellite image analysis. In addition, algorithms have also been developed to detect BXW- and BBTD-infected plants on drone images. These outputs will contribute to banana production zone and health status mapping.
Data collected through the app and obtained from drone/satellite image analysis will feed into a surveillance and mapping platform. This will create an early warning system and advise research and extension bodies and National plant protection organizations (NPPOs) of ongoing disease spread, linked risks, and priority zones for surveillance.