“Making effective use of data in agriculture is the key to securing our food future.”
—Blair Edwards, Research Staff Member
Population growth and climate change are putting pressure on our food supply, increasing the need for higher yields, whilst at the same time giving us a more challenging environment to work with. Precision agriculture has the potential to address these challenges, both enhancing agricultural efficiency and helping to reduce environmental impacts.
Globally, 30% of crop yield is lost to insect pests, plant pathogens and weeds. Protecting crops more efficiently and sustainably represents one of the most accessible ways to intensify agriculture. Smart Crop Protection adopts a systems-based approach, integrating chemical, genetic, biological, ecological, mathematical and agronomic approaches to deliver more targeted, “evolution-smart” strategies that minimise adverse environmental impacts.
Yet, it poses a challenge in data processing and analysis due to the large volume and fast accumulation of real-time geospatial data, the diversity of historic data and research outputs produced on a daily basis. At IBM Research UK we are actively working to support researchers in both exploring the genetic make-up of different crops, as well as building a scalable data platform to deliver insight and support decision making for farmers, researchers and industry stakeholders.
Through metagenomic analysis we are exploring taxonomical and functional diversity of microbes in a soil environment. Our efforts are aimed to investigate how we can manipulate and manage the soil microbiome to increase soil fertility, improve crop production and enhance our understanding of how terrestrial ecosystems will respond to environmental change.