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May 16th, 2018 / Scientific American

An image-recognition smartphone app uses AI to help farmers in sub-Saharan Africa identify up to five different diseases.

Cassava is one of the developing world’s most important crops. Its starchy roots and leaves are a staple food for more than 500 million people in Africa each day. And Africa produces half of the world’s total cassava output; the continent’s main growers are the Congo, Côte d’lvoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

It’s also climate resilient, as it is predicted to improve yield in higher temperatures. Its role as a staple food will become ever more important, then, as climate change continues to take hold.

But cassava, like many other crops, is vulnerable to viruses and other plant diseases. These diseases can affect cassava yields, cost farmers money, and threaten food security in sub-Saharan Africa. Two diseases, cassava mosaic disease and cassava brown streak disease, have become the largest constraints to cassava production and food security in sub-Saharan Africa resulting in losses of over US$1 billion every year. Read more