Scientists trial drones to protect coffee plants from devastating fungal disease | 3/5/2019 | Staff
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Researchers are trialling the use of drones to monitor coffee plant health in Thailand in a bid to prevent the spread of disease.

Around 95 million cups of coffee are drunk a day in the UK alone, but the coffee plant is susceptible to a fungal disease known as coffee rust. This disease is devastating to the plant and can wipe out vast swathes of crops or even entire plantations.

Coffee - Plantation - Disease - Family - Livelihood

If a coffee plantation is hit by disease it can destroy an entire family's livelihood. In the lower-income regions where coffee is grown, farmers also tend not to use expensive fungicides that could prevent the disease. This is also because they want to grow coffee without using chemicals to secure organic certification.

Now, a team led by Dr. Oliver Windram from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial are hoping to be able to prevent the spread of coffee rust using drones, and have been testing this out in the coffee growing areas of Thailand.

Idea - Farmers - Disease - Crops - Plants

The idea is that if farmers can spot that disease has started to affect their crops, they can remove the affected plants to prevent it spreading further. This method would also allow them to control disease without chemical fungicides.

Dr. Windram said: "Coffee rust can be utterly devastating to farmers who rely on the income for their livelihoods. The benefit of using drones is that they are non-invasive and do not damage the product, but also they are able to get a much more comprehensive view from the air than any farmer can from the ground. We hope the drones will be able to spot the disease early enough before it decimates the crop."

Dr - Windram - Professor - Katherine - Denby

Dr. Windram has been working with Professor Katherine Denby, a plant scientist from the University of York, and astrophysicist Dr. Anthony Brown, of Durham University, to adapt...
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