App uses AI to detect banana pest, diseases

An App using this tool can diagnose the disease and give treatment options

Updated - August 18, 2019 08:18 am IST

Published - August 17, 2019 07:28 pm IST

Versatile:  The App can detect symptoms on any part of the crop and is trained to read even images of lower quality.

Versatile: The App can detect symptoms on any part of the crop and is trained to read even images of lower quality.

Identifying diseases and pests on banana crops will now be just a click away. Researchers have developed a new artificial intelligence system (AI) which can look at photographs and tell what disease the plant has and also give recommendations and treatment options to the farmers. The results showed that the model was over 90% accuracy.

Training the network

The neural network was given about 20,000 images showing diseased and healthy plants. “Just like teaching a kid to tell an elephant from a horse, we taught the AI to identify leaf, root, fruit diseases and pests. Pictures from Uganda, Colombia, Congo and India were fed into the system for the training,” says Dr. Sivalingam Elayabalan from the Department of Biotechnology, Imayam Institute of Agriculture and Technology (IIAT), Trichy, Tamil Nadu. He is one of the authors of the study published in Plant Methods .

The tool is now incorporated into an App called Tumaini, meaning hope in Swahili, and being tested.


Expansion of scope

The team is planning to add more diseases based on regions and also make the App available in local languages. “When users take the photo, it gets uploaded to a global system for large-scale monitoring. Also, it is automatically GPS-tagged so we know what and where the problem is. We are also planning to incorporate high-resolution satellite monitoring to check the health of large fields,” explains Dr. Michael Gomez Selvaraj, from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Colombia in an email to The Hindu. Dr. Selvaraj is the senior author of the paper. The App can detect symptoms on any part of the crop, and is even trained to read images of lower quality.

Major Indian diseases

The app is now being tested across many countries and when the confidence of 100% is reached it will be available for free download. “Yellow leaf spot and Fusarium wilt are the major fungal diseases in India and farmers spend a lot of money on fungicides. Apart from the fungal disease, the viral disease such as Banana Bunchy top virus is a big problem in hilly areas of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Northeast region. The App can tell the farmers in advance bringing down the treatment costs,” says Dr. Elayabalan. “We are now testing the App in Tamil, and it will soon be available in Hindi and Malayalam. The National Research Centre for Banana (NRCB) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) have shown interested in the App.”

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