A new interactive tool for identifying nearly 200 different weed species of lowland rice in East and West Africa was recently unveiled at the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice). The tool is built on a comprehensive knowledge base that can be accessed online (http://www.afroweeds.org/idao/) and offline on laptops and CD-ROMs or as an app on smartphones and tablet computers.
“Weeds are perhaps the most important constraint in rice production, so this is a valuable resource for all those involved in research, training and management of rice weeds in sub-Saharan Africa, where total rice production losses attributable to weeds are estimated at US$ 1.5 billion,” said Dr Jonne Rodenburg, AfricaRice Weed Scientist.
The weed identification tool is the product of a 3-year project on “African Weeds of Rice” (AFROweeds), which is coordinated by the Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD) and AfricaRice with support from the European Union (EU) Africa, Carribean, Pacific (ACP) Science and Technology Program.
The project which is on the point of completion is carried out in close partnership with national agricultural research and extension systems in sub-Saharan Africa.
Besides the identification tool, the other important products that the AFROweeds project has generated include:
- A collaborative platform – called Weedsbook – that enables access to a professional social network and facilitates the sharing of information between professionals and students interested in applied botany, weed science and weed management in rice in Africa.
- An online database on selected weed species, including images, articles, reports and recommendations on weed management
“These resources have been developed to help in the dissemination of knowledge and exchange of information not only among the project members, but also among all the community of actors in the rice value chain,” said Dr Thomas Le Bourgeois, Weed Scientist from CIRAD and Leader of the AFROweeds project. “The target users are weed scientists and agronomists, students and professors of universities, farmers’ associations and extension services.”
The main objectives of the AFROweeds project were to consolidate existing knowledge on selected weed species using information and communication technologies (ICT) and enhance the use and dissemination of best weed management practices.
The project activities and outputs were reviewed during the final workshop held recently, which was also used as an opportunity to train partners from Africa in the use of new tools generated by the project. Participants also discussed future prospects to sustain the project’s momentum through the Weedsbook network. Currently the network has about 125 members from 20 countries.
Tablet computers with the weed identification app were distributed to the project partners after the workshop. “We expect to receive feedback from the users on the tool’s functionalities and usefulness, in order to further improve it,” explained Dr Pierre Grard, CIRAD Botanist/Computer Scientist, who was closely involved in the development of the weed identification system.