India’s first FAW live tracking tool and farmer advisories to assist in risk mitigation of smallholder farmers
Over 30 scientists from global agricultural research institutes have joined forces to combat the spread of Fall Armyworm (FAW) in India. Equipped with a real-time tracking tool, they are set to take on the highly invasive pest with an early warning system for farmers and policymakers alike.
The Farmer app Plantix Pest Tracker, receives 20,000 images every day from across India, and the data is used to derive insights by tethering all coordinates to a 10 km radius. Scientific staff from the Progressive Environmental and Agricultural Technologies (PEAT), Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), and ICRISAT, are leading the efforts with support from State governments and other research partner institutions.
With confirmed attacks on Maize, Sorghum, Pearl millet, Finger millet, Little millet and Foxtail millet in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Gujarat, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, since July 2018 the FAW is fast emerging as a major threat to food security and livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers in India. Native to Eastern and Central North America, and South America, it was spotted on the African continent two years ago. Highly destructive of more than 80 plant species it has since cost billions of dollars in crop losses. Along with partners, ICRISAT has been actively involved in global efforts to combat this pest with digital technology the latest addition to this.
“We were able to identify thousands of incidents with a high likeliness – just within the past month. Through our database, we are able to generate an early warning system for farmers who might be at risk. Based on this, we already sent push notifications to nearly 50,000 of our users through our Plantix app,” says Simone Strey, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of PEAT.
Both Crop Protection and Digital Agriculture teams have been receiving proactive support from Government of Andhra Pradesh with continuous participation from scientists, experts, and the extension workers of the Department of Agriculture in documenting FAW cases via the Plantix app. Furthermore, the shared project between CABI and PEAT in Tamil Nadu also focuses on the occurrence of FAW.
“It is very valuable to have a live tracking system that is freely available for all stakeholders, especially to Governments who coordinate the response to new invasions. This is a logical next step of our ongoing cooperation,” says Roger Day, Program Executive, Action on Invasives, CABI.
“Real-time tracking of the pest is crucial to the fight as infestation levels may increase. We are, therefore conducting further studies on the pest’s biology and their diets under lab conditions at ICRISAT,” says Dr Kiran Sharma, Deputy Director General-Research ICRISAT.