In resource rich parts of the world, improvements in crop productivity are being accelerated using sophisticated agricultural sensors and analytics to monitor crop health and environmental factors to guide crop breeding and management decisions. Unfortunately, African researchers and farmers generally lack access to the tools, infrastructure, and knowledge bases to take advantage of these advances. The PhotosynQ platform (www.photosynq.org) is being developed to lower barriers to access and use of sophisticated crop monitoring technologies by dramatically reducing their cost while tailoring their functionality to the needs of researchers such as those in CCRP. Concurrent with technology development, the PhotosynQ team is engaging networks of local and global research and farming communities to facilitate data-driven crop improvement and management strategies. PhotosynQ consists of a cloud-based network that connects farmers, extension agents, researchers, and managers with expertise, data and analytics, and a sophisticated, inexpensive and easy-to-use hand-held sensor that measures key environmental and plant performance parameters. Data from the sensor is transmitted wirelessly to PhotosynQ for analysis. During the first phase of CCRP support, the team demonstrated the utility of PhotosynQ to address relevant issues by allowing scientists and entrepreneurs in Africa to collaborate in new ways to make useful, field-based measurements of phenotypes and metadata in the field, aggregate these results, and apply sophisticated analytical tools. The project seeks to develop, deploy, and test the PhotosynQ platform with CCRP researchers to directly address major research thrusts, including new capabilities to guide crop breeding efforts, early warning system for pests, and rapid assessment of soil properties.
This project seeks to enable researchers and farmers to measure important but difficult-to-observe agricultural phenomena. It is developing low-cost, easy-to-use instruments that measure aspects of plant, soil, and grain health and allows people to share their measurements with others, including the project team. During the initial phase, the project team collaborated with several research teams in Malawi to measure photosynthesis-related traits and relate them to crop health and yield. During the next phase, the team will develop tools and contribute to the application of methods that can help CCRP teams improve soil health and food safety. These are important CCRP themes of central relevance to agroecological intensification (AEI).