Broad-Scale Agricultural Pest Monitoring in Africa Using Dual-Polarization Weather Radar
William Kunin of the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom will develop methods to monitor agricultural pest outbreaks in Africa using data from dual-polarization weather radar. Pest infestation is responsible for up to 50% of pre-harvest crop loss in Central Africa, and control depends on the ability to monitor local pest outbreaks and movement over large areas – a difficult and expensive task. Sophisticated dual polarization Doppler weather radar is designed to detect airborne objects like rain and hail. However, because it is sensitive to size and shape, it can also be used to detect specific types of insects, including crop pests, and algorithms exist to separate the different signals. They will use micro-CT scans to create three-dimensional models of pests common to Rwandan crops and conduct simulations to predict radar data patterns for swarms of particular pests at varying densities. Through collaboration with the Rwandan meteorological service, they will analyze radar data to identify pest outbreaks and their movements across the country. Once established, the methods will be applied across Africa to provide a low-cost, advanced warning system for crop protection.