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The next frontier in farming: Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools to detect crop diseases are on the way

Swarms of locusts devastating crops in East Africa, corn rootworms wreaking havoc in the Midwestern US, writes Saugat Bolakhe in an article published by the Genetic Literacy Project (GLP).

Bolakhe further points out that blights are destroying rubber trees in Brazil and ravaging potatoes in South India. Unpredictable and erratic weather patterns brought on by climate change will only exacerbate these problems — and, scientists say, make crop diseases more likely to strike and inflict major damage.

Plant pathologist Karen Garrett of the University of Florida, Gainesville, believes that artificial intelligence (AI) could be immensely valuable in fighting these blights.

If agriculture is equipped with cost-effective AI tools that can identify crop diseases and pest infestations early in their development, growers and others can catch problems before they take off and cause real damage, she says — a topic she and colleagues explored in the 2022 Annual Review of Phytopathology. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity by Saugat Bolakhe and published here.

Artificial intelligence is intelligence produced by a machine, such as a computer system equipped with learning algorithms that can keep improving its ability to make predictions as it gets more information. These tools are so advanced that they can process huge amounts of information within seconds.

For crop resiliency, AI can help by making better tools for crop surveillance, designing better robots to deliver pesticides or harvest, and better software to help in breeding for traits like disease resistance and drought tolerance. It has a strong social angle, as it can help farmers and policymakers to make smart decisions.

Source: Genetic Literacy Project (GLP). Read the full article here
Related scientific paper: Climate Change Effects on Pathogen Emergence: Artificial Intelligence to Translate Big Data for Mitigation
Photo: Credit Anton Trava/Pexels

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