Missouri Botanical Garden Open Conference Systems, TDWG 2016 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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Why and how to use drones for collecting data on agricultural biodiversity?

Last modified: 2016-09-23


Congolese agriculture faces a number of problems, including weather uncertainty (rain, temperature, and humidity), low yield per hectare, lack of financial and technical support, and the lack of a better national policy to support small farmers to best use biodiversity data. Moreover, the level of access to information on biodiversity does not allow farming communities to develop their technical capabilities. This remains true for the entire Congolese rural population whose livelihoods depend mainly of family farming and subsistence.

It is known that data-driven technology can make a significant contribution to populations dependent on family farming. However, the Democratic Republic of Congo lags behind in the use of technology and innovation in agriculture. We describe a project planned for the Plateau Batéké, in which agricultural data collected by drones will be made available to farmers via smartphones in order to facilitate precision agriculture. Aerial imagery will enable the collection of data on: 1) the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI); 2) cultivated vs uncultivated land; 3) topography and altitude in order to understand patterns of land erosion and more effectively develop systems of drainage and irrigation; and 4) the diversity of plants grown in micro-zones, in order to monitor  their evolution, ecology, and adaptability. The data will also be combined with traditional analytical methods to map plant diversity, and to better understand problems of lifting, weeds, disease, and crop damage. We anticipate that the data collected will support the optimization of traditional practices in the region, such as multiple crop-cycles per year, and seed exchange amongst farmers.