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Agrobiodiversity / / Drones that target crops for improvement

Drones that target crops for improvement

“We can assess hundreds of trials on the basis of no more than one overview,” said Michael Gómez Selvaraj, crop physiologist with CIAT’s Agrobiodiversity Research Area, as he demonstrated the Center’s first drones – small, remote-controlled, fixed-wing lightweight quadcopters guided by GPS (Global Positioning System) – which he and his team are flying over rice and cassava fields to capture images that reflect variation in plant color and water loss.


The drones, also referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), with a multispectral camera attached, are one of the main components of the phenotyping platform that CIAT is building on its headquarters campus near Cali, Colombia, through the Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS) project, which is funded by the Government of Japan and conducted in close collaboration with the University of Tokyo, for the purpose of accelerating rice breeding.

In practical terms, having the drones  available will allow researchers to quickly capture images of large field plots for monitoring crop performance (on the basis of pigment indices and green biomass) instead of sampling the plants manually, as is done in conventional plant breeding. Data collected in this way will help select the best performing plants at various abiotic stress levels, while also reducing the effects of temporal variation.

“UAVs are definitely a boon to CIAT’s phenotyping platform,” said Gómez Selvaraj. “This technology could drastically reduce the amount of time crop physiologists spend in the field evaluating crop performance on the basis of traits that were previously measured plant by plant,” he said. “

“Our high-throughput phenotyping platform opens the way for innovative approaches to developing new varieties of rice and cassava that can thrive under stress environments”, said Joe Tohme, director of the Agrobiodiversity Research Area.

CIAT is operating the drones under the regulations of Colombia’s civil aviation authorities.

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  • Reinhardt Howeler: Thanks, Keith. It was a pleasure writing this book as it brought back so many good memories of working with cassava, both in Latin America and in Asia. I was lucky that the Nippon Foundation suggested that I write this book and financed its publication. They also wanted a simplified version for farmers and extension workers that could be translated into various languages. The English version of this new book is now going to press in Hanoi, while the Khmer and Vietnamese translations are also ready for printing and the Thai and Chinese translations are still being worked on. In case you are interested in the English version, let me know. My email address is still And let me know where you are working now and what you are doing. Reinhardt
  • Peter de Vroome: Great invention! Could be very usefull in our research in fast detecting CFSD in our planting material. Is this kit already for sale? Peter de Vroome phytopathologist Centre for Agricultural Research in Suriname (C.E.L.O.S.)
  • German-funded research on climate-smart crop-livestock systemsSupport CIAT: […] Written by: Angela Fernando […]
  • Keith Fuglie: An impressive publication! Reinhardt Howeler has done an incredible job of summarizing lessons from nearly 30 years of work on cassava improvement in Asia. This very successful collaboration between CIAT and national research programs demonstrates what can be achieved through modest but persistent investment in agricultural research, even with a relatively neglected crop grown primarily by poor farm families in marginal environments.
  • Unraveling the genetic secrets of the insect ve...: […] Jeff Stuart, an insect molecular geneticist from Purdue University, USA, is bringing new ideas to unravel the genetic secrets of insect vectors of crop virus diseases (RT @CGIAR: News: Unraveling the genetic secrets of the insect vectors of crop virus...  […]
  • Kellan: i am also working on ppd on cassava. can you please help me find find a suitable protocol to analyse ppd.
  • ALI SALEM IBRAHIM: Hi we looking to start collaborations with ciat center if it,s possible.
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