Game changers: digital agriculture and new technologies

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Tablets being used at a Plantwise plant clinic in India. Photo: CABI

ICTs play a pivotal role in facilitating solutions for smallholder farmers and the markets they are trying to access. For GLOBALG.A.P., the world’s leading farm assurance program, the only way to make the auditing of the 160,000 farms it covers economically viable is through technological solutions. CABI’s Plantwise programme also relies on ICTs for collecting data from plant clinics and to share plant health knowledge via the Knowledge Bank. Similarly, the provision of micro-finance and insurance services for smallholder farmers has only been made possible through advances in mobile technology.

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CABI argues for stronger links between rural advisory services and research, private sector and ICTs

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Dr Kuhlmann speaking at the GLAST event

At a meeting of the world’s top agricultural scientists in China, CABI’s Executive Director for Global Operations, Dr Ulrich Kuhlmann, stressed the key role rural advisory services play in lifting agricultural communities out of poverty. As he pointed out, “Some of the most relevant and appropriate information isn’t high tech or innovative, but that doesn’t mean farmers know about it.”

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Plant doctors share advice using WhatsApp and Facebook in Central America

by Erica Chernoh and Eduardo Hidalgo, CABI

Haga clic para la versión español de abajo

Discussion of symptoms and a diagnosis on the WhatsApp group for plant doctors in Honduras
Discussion of symptoms and a diagnosis on the WhatsApp group for plant doctors in Honduras

 

The software application WhatsApp is being used by plant doctors in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras to provide and receive plant diagnostic support. WhatsApp has proven to be popular in many countries, because it is a free communication tool for sending and receiving SMS messages. Continue reading

Drones approved for spraying crops in the US

Helicopter piloted by remote control sprays grape vineyards in California (Photo: AP)
Helicopter piloted by remote control sprays grape vineyards in California (Photo: AP)

Crop-spraying drones have now been granted the stamp of approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States. The particular drone which was approved, pictured above in California, is equipped to carry tanks of fertilizers and pesticides, and intended to reach difficult areas to access by ground-based spraying equipment and manned planes. This is not the first time drones have been used in agriculture in the US, but they had not previously been approved for this purpose. Smaller drones have been used for some years by farmers as means of capturing aerial photographs of large areas of crops, aiding identification of unhealthy crop patches. This will be the first time in the country that drones will be spraying and distributing agricultural inputs. Read more

Roundtable brings high-tech farming ideas to India’s risk-prone ecologies

David J. Spielman joined the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in 2004, and is currently a senior research fellow based in Washington, DC. His research agenda covers a range of topics including agricultural science, technology and innovation policy; seed systems and input markets; and community-driven rural development. His work maintains a regional emphasis on East Africa and South Asia.

This post is re-blogged from the IFPRI blog.

Rice field in Bihar, India
Rice field in Bihar, India. Credit: Jim (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Imagine agriculture in India as a high-tech, highly mechanized venture. Picture a rice farmer taking soil samples with a handheld meter to gauge nutrient and moisture needs, calibrating planting along plot contours with GPS-guided tools, placing rice in precise rows using a mechanical transplanter, and doing this with the backing of reliable, customized financing. Now picture this farmer as a woman—because most of the men in her village have migrated to the cities in search of better opportunities.

It sounds far-fetched, doesn’t it? It certainly doesn’t correspond with our image of poor rice farmers toiling in knee-deep water under the hot sun and monsoon rains, prey to the local moneylender.

But this future is nearer than we realize, and it was the focus of a roundtable on “Sustainable Intensification in South Asia’s Cereal Systems: Investment Strategies for Productivity Growth, Resource Conservation, and Climate Risk Management” held on May 19 in New Delhi. Continue reading

Watch the new Knowledge Bank demo

Check out the latest video demo featuring highlights of the new Plantwise Knowledge Bank version 2.1. New translation capabilities and offline content delivery make the knowledge bank a shared resource for even more people in more communities worldwide. Regional pages focus on plant health problems that cross national boarders, and improved search and diagnostic tools bring more specific and appropriate information for users’ needs. Already reaching 198 countries with front-line pest management news, records and recommendations, the Knowledge Bank has become a critical resource for global food security

New technology for detecting pests and diseases

by Keron Bascombe, Technology4Agri

IPM Scope for identifying diseases
IPM Scope – a new technology to aid identification of plant diseases © Spectrum Technologies

Much of farm enterprise activity is spent dealing with pests and diseases which significantly lower the yield of produce. For many producers this warrants the use of pesticides of many kinds to deter a wide variety of pests and insects that can either destroy crops or act as vectors that cause disease. Excess use of pesticides can not only harm the plant and its soil (or soil medium) but it is potentially harmful to those labourers applying the chemical and in the long run to those consuming the crop.

In this regard, early detection of pests and disease is paramount when operating a medium to large scale agri enterprise, as pesticide application can be minimised if pests are found before they get out of control. There are numerous technologies, ranging from simple applications to complex innovations, that can be used to identify harmful insects and the like. Currently, some of the more high-tech tools are quite expensive, especially for farmers in developing countries. However, as demand and use increases in countries such as the United States, these tools will become more accessible worldwide. Continue reading