Fields of Innovation – How AI is Transforming Global Crop Management

Crops are the backbone of human sustenance, providing us with food, feed, fibre, and fuel. They fall into six categories:

  • food
  • feed
  • fibre
  • oil
  • ornamental
  • industrial

The world’s most popular food crops are grains such as corn, wheat, and rice.  Among these, wheat is one of the most widely grown crops globally. In 2021, the harvested area of wheat reached 220 million hectares with a total production of 770 million tons.

However when it comes to the ‘world record’ for production volumes, sugar cane is top dog; 1.86 billion metric tons was produced in 2021, followed by maize with 1.21 billion metric tons. The highest yield record for a single crop is held by corn, with a whopping 623.84 bushels per acre.

Back to wheat, and looking ahead the anticipated annual yield of wheat from 2024 to 2050 is a complex topic. Climate change, pests, over-farming, and black grass are all factors that could affect this.

Black grass is a native annual grass weed found mainly in the cereal growing areas of southern and eastern England. It rarely occurs outside of cultivated land and is most abundant in winter crops. Black grass can seriously reduce crop yields through competition for nutrients, especially nitrogen. It has become more widespread and problematic to control during the last 50 years due to more crops being sown in autumn, a trend towards sowing crops earlier in the autumn, and herbicide resistance.

At AgriSynth we set out to develop a unique software system that can generate synthetic images of biologically accurate crop and weed plant species, including objects on the leaves of those plants (pests, diseases, etc.) & on the soil background (slugs, stones, etc.) These synthetic images can be used to train AI models to recognise and manage these species, potentially improving efficiency, farmer adoption of new technology, and crop production. This could be a game-changer in the fight against black grass and other crop management challenges.

In the dynamic world of agriculture, understanding the diversity and abundance of crops globally, as well as the factors influencing their yield, is paramount for food security and sustainable farming. Challenges such as climate change & pests pose significant threats to our crops. However, amidst these uncertainties, we find hope in the power of innovation.  The integration of AI technologies, like those we are pioneering at AgriSynth, is not merely a reaction to these challenges but a proactive step towards a resilient future. These technologies enable us to manage crops more effectively, tackle issues like black grass, and pave the way for more efficient and sustainable farming practices.

The road ahead may be filled with obstacles but armed with technology we stand prepared to cultivate a future of abundance. The adoption of AI in agriculture signifies our readiness to face these challenges head-on, ensuring a sustainable and prosperous future for all.