Artificial intelligence searches for a mate for the world’s loneliest plant

Artificial intelligence searches for a mate for the world’s loneliest plant

“Artificial intelligence is being used in the hunt to find an endangered male plant, described as the world’s loneliest, a female partner,” reports the BBC.

A University of Southampton research project is searching about 20 square miles of forest in South Africa, in the region where the only known Encephalartos woodii (E. woodii) was ever found. All existing members of this species are male clones of the only known E. woodii, and are unable to naturally reproduce. The ancient species is older than the dinosaurs, and is one of the most endangered organisms on Earth.

Dr Laura Cinti, research fellow at the University of Southampton, heads the first project to use drones and artificial intelligence to search for a female E. woodii. “I was very inspired by the story of the E. woodii, it mirrors a classic tale of unrequited love,” she explains. “I’m hopeful there is a female out there somewhere, after all there must have been at one time. It would be amazing to bring this plant so close to extinction back through natural reproduction.

As the BBC notes,

The only known E. woodii was discovered in the Ngoye Forest in 1895.

With only one male ever found, all subsequent propagated samples are male clones – meaning the plant cannot naturally reproduce.

Drone imaging of the forest is being analysed by AI – with less than 2% of the 10,000 acre area having been covered so far.

Dr Ciniti said: “With the AI, we are using an image recognition algorithm in order to recognise plants by shape.

“We generated images of plants and put them in different ecological settings, to train the model to recognise them.”

Drones are becoming very useful.  Drones are replacing or complementing tractors on some farms, saving farmers a fortune, and making it easier to spray herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers with precision.

Researchers have also developed robots to pick cotton. That may eliminate the need for cotton farmers to buy mechanical harvesters that cost $1 million and weigh 30 tons, compressing soil and thus sometimes harming soil health.

Robots with artificial intelligence are spreading on Japanese farms. In the U.S., farming robots now use artificial intelligence to kill 100,000 weeds per hour. Drones with artificial intelligence will make farming easier.

Drones are saving lives by speeding up child immunization in nations like Ghana.

LU Staff

LU Staff

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