Kenya: Drones, the new scouts for diseases, pests on the farm

Source(s)
Nation Media Group Ltd.

By Leopold Obi

On a windy day high up in the hilly Kibirichia village, Meru County, Susan Naftali observes an eagle-sized unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) hovering low above his field.

The drone, which is delivering a whole new perspective of crop disease and pest early warning system to farmers, has brought new hope to many in Ntugi, Naare, Kibirichia and Timau.

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According to experts, drone’s precision at detecting pests and diseases is over 10 times accurate compared to the human eye.

The drones are capable of collecting very high resolution images with very numerous details, thus, they are useful in mapping and surveying farms.

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The drones are mounted with a near-infrared sensor (NIR) capable of detecting pest and diseases, 10 days before it becomes visible to an agronomist or an extension worker.

The gadgets ability to diagnose stress levels in plants at early stages, according to experts, helps in minimising insecticide use.

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Yvonne Mukami, an extension officer at Third Eye Company, says the sensor can take up to 20 samples in one day.

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Mukami explained that drone sensors use infra-red spectrum of light and other configuration called Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to give the intensity of stress in the crop.

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“Captured images are processed through image composite editor that helps to stitch them together to form a single map,” explains Mukami. After being edited, the images are viewed and analysed. “The images are then finally broken down to a format that the farmer can easily understand,” says Mukami.

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