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Potato Blight: scientists are using AI to prevent potato-related future famines

IIT Mandi team has developed an AI-based computational model for automated disease detection in potato crops to prevent future famines.

One of the most versatile vegetables – we eat potatoes in everything from curries to biryani or in the form of French fries or even aloo parathas.

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But did you know that this beloved root vegetable is threatened by one of the most devastating plant diseases of any crop! Called Potato Blight, it is a common disease of the potato plant, that starts as uneven light green lesions on the plant and soon spreads into large brown to purplish-black necrotic patches that eventually lead to rotting of the plant and can wipe away the entire crop, if left undetected.

As of now, the detection and identification of blight is done manually in India and in most developing countries as well. Trained personnel scout the field and visually inspect the potato foliage. The process is tedious and impractical but researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi are trying to simplify the process with the use of artificial intelligence.  

Working in collaboration with the Central Potato Research Institute in Shimla, the team has developed an AI-based computational model for automated disease detection in potato crops using photographs of its leaves. 

Publishing in the journal Plant Phenomics, the team says their idea may help prevent financial catastrophe to the farmer and the country’s economy. 

To make their technology easier to use, the IIT Mandi team is now working on a smartphone app that will be accessible as part of the Department of Biotechnology’s FarmerZone Crop Advisory app. 

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