New information service to help farmers control pests

  • 27th February 2017
  • by secretary

Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa are to benefit from a new project that aims to develop an early warning system to help cut crop losses resulting from pests. The project will forecast pest outbreaks using cutting-edge space infrastructure, Earth observation data and state-of- the-art modelling techniques.

The Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE) consortium includes Assimila Ltd, King’s College London and STFC Centre for Environmental Data Analysis, who will link their Earth Observation expertise with the Plantwise work undertaken by the UK-based Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI). Partners also include the ministries of agriculture in the initial three countries of Kenya, Ghana and Zambia, delivering on-the-ground local knowledge to the project.

“Pest outbreaks are becoming increasingly unpredictable due to climate change, Farmers may receive forecasts through existing plant health systems, leveraging on networks in current programmes and projects to trigger appropriate action to deliver at-scale alerts and advice. Ghana, Kenya and Zambia have already been working with CABI’s Plantwise programme to tackle pests and their associated crop losses. The PRISE project will reach citizens through mobile, radio, Web and extension services. The partnerships with governments and responsible organisations will help in its expansion together with strong links forged with them.” Timothy Holmes, CABI

PRISE with £6.38 million (almost US$ 8 million) funding over five years from the UK Space Agency will create a pest risk forecasting system based on Earth Observation and Plantwise data with the aim of providing risk forecasts and early warnings in time for smallholder farmers to take preventive action, increasing their resilience to pest outbreaks.

“An estimated 40% of the world’s crops are lost to pests. This impacts the ability of smallholders living in poor rural communities to feed their families. More broadly, it affects food supply chains, international trade and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. We must take action. I’m delighted that the Plantwise network and data can be leveraged into this innovative new initiative using Earth observational data to predict pest outbreaks and reduce their impact by giving farmers early warning and more timely management advice.” CABI CEO, Dr Trevor Nicholls

The UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP), a five-year, £152 million programme that partners UK space expertise with governments and organisations in emerging and developing economies. The aim is to deliver sustainable, economic and societal benefit using satellite data.

PRISE is one of 21 projects chosen to provide solutions to local issues in countries across Africa, Asia and Central and South America in areas including food security, drought, flooding and deforestation. The projects underwent a rigorous selection process to ensure they met strict requirements for Official Development Assistance and UN sustainability goals.