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A woman in Lagos, Nigeria, peels cassava to make flour. Diseases and pests can threaten the crop. Photo: Sunday Alamba / AP

Researchers at Penn State University and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture in Tanzania have trained a neural network running on a smartphone to spot cassava disease with 93% accuracy.

Why it matters: Diseases and pests threaten cassava, a root vegetable that is critical for food security in sub-Saharan Africa, and can lead to losses of over a $1.2 billion each year.

The vision: "In the same way we have personalized medicine, I think we can have personalized agriculture on scale for hundreds of millions of people in real time," Penn State's David Hughes told Wired. He envisions farmers and gardeners using artificial intelligence to help them diagnose their crops.

How it works: Neural networks are typically trained with millions of images. Instead of starting from scratch, the researchers took advantage of something called transfer learning in which an existing network is retrained with new data. In this case, they used 2,756 images of cassava leaves with tell-tale signs of disease.

Go deeper

16 mins ago - World

Palestinian Authority announces new COVID restrictions as cases surge

A nurse administers the COVID-19 vaccine to a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. Photo: Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty Images

The Palestinian Authority on Saturday announced fresh coronavirus restrictions, including a partial lockdown, for the occupied West Bank as COVID-19 cases surge.

The big picture: The new measures come as Israel, which leads the world in vaccinations, faces increased pressure to ensure Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have equal access to vaccines.

58 mins ago - World

Myanmar military fires UN ambassador after anti-coup speech

Photo: Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Myanmar's military regime on Saturday fired the country's Ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, a day after he gave a pro-democracy speech asking UN member nations to publicly condemn the Feb. 1 coup, The New York Times reports.

Details: State television said the ambassador had "betrayed the country and spoken for an unofficial organization which doesn’t represent the country and had abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador."

Scoop: Biden admin call on Putin pipeline provokes GOP anger

Putin chairs a video meeting in July 2020. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

A briefing between the State Department and congressional staff over Vladimir Putin's Russia-Germany gas pipeline got tense this week, with Biden officials deflecting questions about why they hadn't moved faster and more aggressively with sanctions to stop its completion.

  • The Biden officials also denied negotiating with the Germans over a potential side deal to allow the pipeline to be finished.

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