An app to smartly identify plant pests and diseases

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Modern technology put to practical use for potato growers: A smartphone app developed by The James Hutton Institute in Scotland can help with disease identification in the field.

Identifying plant diseases can be complex and difficult, as potato growers and even experienced agronomists know very well. Accurate identification and diagnosis require knowledge of the symptoms induced and sometimes a confirmatory lab test is needed, which can take days and much effort and cost to get done. Small holder farmers or other non-specialist growers often lack in-depth knowledge of symptoms and access to literature or expert opinion.

Enter a smartphone application developed in Scotland to ease this process – “Buntata”… Buntata, the Gaelic word for potato, is an Android app developed by The James Hutton Institute, and funded by the University of St. Andrews, SEFARI (Scottish Environment, Food and Ag- riculture Research Institutes) and the BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council).

“Buntata has been designed to help users identify plant pests and diseases with no apriori knowledge,” says Sebastian Raubach, a Bioinformatics Software Developer at Hutton, involved in the development of the app. “Buntata provides a visual key for the identification of diseases by displaying exemplar images of symptoms and offers solutions to aid identification of the causes. Buntata has been designed to help users identify plant pests and diseases with no apriori knowledge.”

With the help of Buntata, a user can visually select the part of the plant that is obviously affected, and Buntata will then display images of recorded symptoms for matching diseases. Picking the image that most closely resembles the symptoms shows the user detailed information about possible causes, background information, diagnostics and control methods that can help growers deal with the causes.

“Diseases can exhibit similar symptoms,” Raubach says. “Differentiating between say powdery and common scab requires experience. Buntata displays diseases with similar symptoms together, allowing easy comparison to help users identify the correct one.”

Text BoxOnce the cause has been identified, users can then keep a record of this – tagged with the current location, notes and images stored locally on the device – for future reference. Buntata was originally developed for small holder farmers but can be used by anyone who grows potatoes as a handy mobile resource.


Further information:

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Sebastian Raubach can be reached at

Article courtesy of: Lukie Pieterse, Editor-in-Chief, Global Potato News