Beating the Fall Armyworm with geodata

Have you heard about the Fall Armyworm? In 2016 this tiny insect native to the Americas has entered Africa and spread rapidly throughout the entire continent. The insect munches on over 180 different crops, but damage is greatest in maize production, the staple food of over 200 million sub-Saharan Africans. Not surprising, the insect is posing a serious threat to food security.

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Early warning is key
With the Fall Armyworm being relatively new to African farmers, pest control is still far from optimal and the insect meets little resistance. Farmers struggle recognizing the insect, whereas early detection is key to prevent damage. What if we could forecast where the Armyworm is spreading to? This early warning information is key to start extra control measures in the field.

Detect and forecast damage and spread
Together with Weather Impact, we are currently developing an operational system to detect and forecast the damage and spread of the Fall Armyworm in Africa. We combine weather-forecast data with earth-observation data to predict the likelihood of future infestations: with wind expectations and up-to-date maize maps, we know exactly which areas are at risk. The first phase of the development is funded by the Small Business Innovation Research program, part of the Dutch Government. We’re starting in Ghana, but the techniques are borderless and we aim to combat the Fall Armyworm on the entire continent. We’re keeping you posted.



Loes Masselink