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Drone Technology is aiding data collection for crop breeding in Africa

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Preliminary results of a study shows that using drone technology could cut labour and costs spent in collecting data for maize breeding by at least 10%.

The SciDevNEt reported that The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Southern Africa has adopted the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) also known as drones to collect data as a critical part of a breeding programme.

The article quotes Mainassara Abdou Zaman-Allah, a maize physiologist at CIMMYT who noted that UAVs facilitated the collection of instant data gathering and that drones are able to collect data from 1,000 plots in 10 minutes or less a task that might take 8 hours to do so manually.

In this way, drone application reduce labour and costs of data collection.

CIMMYT started using drones in 2013, and to date UAVs are used in maize breeding in Eastern and Southern Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Drones and Plant Breeders

In a similar report the use of drones will continue to augument for plant breeders. Drone industry analysts have pegged agriculture as one of the top sectors for future drone growth.

This is particularly important because plant preeders develop new crop varieties and as a result they grow a lot of plants which needs to be checked regularly.This is aptly re-stated by Brian Diers;

"Farmers might have a 100-acre field planted with one soybean variety, whereas breeders may have 10,000 potential varieties planted on one 10-acre field. The farmer can fairly quickly determine whether the single variety in a field is ready to be harvested. However, breeders have to walk through research fields several times in the fall to determine the date when each potential variety matures"- a breader at Soybean at University of Illinois 

For more information on drones and plant breeders click here


  1. SciDevNet.2017. Maize breeders reaping benefits of using drones. News article.
  2. The Daily Register.2017. Drones are what's next for plant breeders. News article
  3. Why drones are valuable tools for Plant Breeders