SEP 25, 2019 7:52 AM PDT

PlantVillage Nuru: An App that Predicts Climate Change Stress for Farmers in Africa

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Researchers at Penn State reveal an artificial intelligence (AI) app is now available for free in smartphone use and can help protect farmer’s crops in Africa in the face of climate change. 95 percent of the farmers rely on rain to irrigate their crops.

"Hundreds of millions of African farmers are already suffering from the effects of climate change," said David Hughes, associate professor of entomology and biology. "For example, earlier this year, which has been the hottest year on record, Mozambique was hit with two cyclones, both among the strongest ever recorded in East Africa. They caused almost $1 billion in damages and destroyed nearly 80 percent of staple crops throughout the region. They also changed rainfall patterns across East Africa, which further affected the crops."

So the app is called "PlantVillage Nuru" referring to the United Nations Climate Action Summit and has been used across Africa to diagnose crop diseases. Now, data can be drawn from PlantVillage Nuru to increase crop productivity and viability. The app can also offer farmer ‘counseling’ on crop varieties, affordable irrigation methods, etc.

Credit: itta.org, PlantVillage Nuru utilizes diverse data to predict changes in crops and provide advice for in the face of climate warming.

"Our goal is to nudge behavioral changes that will help farmers prepare their farms to be climate ready," said Hughes. "There are proactive behaviors, such as planting for increased crop diversity, promoting soil moisture conservation and engaging in water harvesting, that are known to increase resiliency. Our AI tool is in the early stages, but it will get better over time and with more training. We are releasing it now so we can kick-start the necessary collaboration we need to help African farmers adapt to climate change. As the African proverb says: 'If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.' Climate change means we must act together to help those most in need."

Source: Penn State News

About the Author
  • 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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