AUG 13, 2019 9:06 AM PDT

An App 'Tumaini' Detects Banana Disease

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly infiltrating all kinds of applications, helping even those located in remote areas of the globe. Now, AI is opening doors for smallholder farmers that utilize handheld technologies to manage their farms more efficiently. These AI technologies often become their ‘weapon’ in defending their farm and harvest against crop diseases and pests.

“Using artificial intelligence, scientists created an easy-to-use tool to detect banana diseases and pests. With an average 90 percent success rate in detecting a pest or a disease, the tool can help farmers avoid millions of dollars in losses.”-CIAT.ORG (CREDIT)

Now, a new smartphone tool integrated into an app is currently being tested for detecting major diseases in bananas. The app is named Tumaini and means "hope" in Swahili and can detect banana diseases that threaten the livelihood of the fruit like the Xanthomanas wilt of banana, Fusarium wilt, and black leaf streak (or Black sigatoka). Banana farmers in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Benin, China, and Uganda, have reported that the Tumaini provided a 90 percent successful disease detection rate. Findings of the study were published in Plant Methods.

"Farmers around the world struggle to defend their crops from pests and diseases," said Michael Selvaraj, the lead author, who developed the tool with colleagues from Bioversity International in Africa. "There is very little data on banana pests and diseases for low-income countries, but an AI tool such as this one offers an opportunity to improve crop surveillance, fast-track control and mitigation efforts, and help farmers to prevent production losses."

The work of the study advances actions taken to develop a satellite-powered and globally connected network for the management and control of disease and pest outbreaks.

"This is not just an app," said Selvaraj. "But a tool that contributes to an early warning system that supports farmers directly, enabling better crop protection and development and decision making to address food security."

Bananas are also the world’s most popular fruit and is an important source of income and nutrition for many families across the globe. Protecting bananas from disease will not only secure the smallholder livelihoods but will keep the world secure on an essential food item like many other critical crops.

Watch this video below to learn more on Tumaini and what it can offer:

"The overall high accuracy rates obtained while testing the beta version of the app show that Tumaini has what it takes to become a very useful early disease and pest detection tool," says Guy Blomme, from Bioversity International. "It has great potential for eventual integration into a fully automated mobile app that integrates drone and satellite imagery to help millions of banana farmers in low-income countries have just-in-time access to information on crop diseases."

Source: International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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