During the week of 6-8 September, Alandie Niewoudt, Attie de Beer, Prof. Cobus Visagie, Prof. Dave Berger, Dr Dawit Kidanemariam, Dr Mahlane Godfrey Kgatle and Samkelisiwe Thango of the Grain Research programme (GRP) travelled to Komatipoort to visit research partners, Cropwatch Africa.

The purpose of the trip was to observe maize foliar diseases and streamline the GRP sample collection strategy for the upcoming season, with a focus on the following (i) Fine tuning in field sample logging using the GRP Disease Clinic App (Innovation Africa) and sample collection sheet; (ii) Fine tuning the Biosecurity App for collecting photos of maize foliar diseases that will be used for Prof. Dave Berger’s artificial intelligence disease recognition project; (iii) Further develop and streamline the standard operating procedures used in the GRP disease clinic and extensions services and (iv) Collect foliar diseased material and isolate causal agents from lesions.

With the new season approaching, it is important that we test the various Apps which will be used to log various metadata points such as photographs of symptoms, information of farming practices, distribution and severity of diseases etc; while surveying and collecting diseased grain samples across the country. The aim is to use these Apps to provide the farmer with an in-depth preliminary report as we drive out to the field and also collect nationwide information on the distribution of pests and diseases in the grain industry. This information will be important for developing appropriate management strategies for our local grain producers.

We would like to thank Roedolf Nieuwenhuis and Ruan van Rooyen of Cropwatch Africa and Albert Schmitt (PiDelta) for taking time off from their day and guiding us through the various maize fields.