IITA uses AI to detect cassava diseases

TANZANIA : THE International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is using an Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform to detect cassava pests and prone diseases so as to provide advice on how to control them.

In the course, the ‘NuruAI’ has already benefited some 2000 farmers countrywide in detecting and identifying some cassava leaves’ viral diseases, where so far the software provides treatment solutions.

The software can recognise diseases like cassava mosaic, cassava brown streak and any damage by red and green mites, as well as provide education on how to recognise and control them.

Making the revelation, IITA Researcher Ms Neema Mbilinyi said farmers and Extension Officers are using the NuruAI through mobile phone technology that they developed in collaboration with the Pennsylvania (Penn) State University in the US and Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

“Nuru uses AI to diagnose viruses and pests that attack cassava through leaves,” Ms Mbilinyi told ‘Daily News’ during the African Food System exhibition organised by IITA recently.

“Once the technology detects diseases, it provides advice on how to control the identified disease(s),” the researcher said.

Additionally, the AI directs the farmers to where they can get the best, clean and safe seeds certified by The Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI).

The Nuru also provides valuable information for researchers to understand the details of the plant in Swahili, English and French and how to control the diseases.

Nuru, which means light in Swahili, uses AI to support farmers to correctly diagnose major pests and diseases affecting their crops using their smartphones to capture images of diseased leaves.

“Also Nuru works offline, which is important where connection to the internet is not available,” Ms Mbilinyi said.

The software works better early in the morning or in the evening to avoid direct and bright sunlight. Also one should be stable when scanning the leave to get a better diagnosed result.

A cassava farmer and seeds producer, Mr Gosbert Ndyamkama said the Nuru technology helped them to improve the productivity of their crops.

He said the usage of Nuru increased his productivity since the software enabled showing the disease trend and how to tackle it at a nascent stage.

AI is the intelligence of machines or software, as opposed to the intelligence of humans or animals.

The IITA team, according to its website, has been working with extension officers and farmers to validate the performance and popularise the technology.

These include training the researchers, extension officers, seed inspection officers, and farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. The app has been found to significantly outperform trained extension officers in diagnosing cassava diseases. said.

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