Application of satellite imagery and development of data base for sustainable crop protection on maize plantation against Armyworm infestation in Nigeria

Agriculture is central to national development in Nigeria. However, the agricultural sector of the country is largely underdeveloped and plagued with several challenges. The resultant effect is the dominance of the sector by small-scale resource poor farmers who operate at the subsistence level of production, relying on crude implements and indigenous methods of farming.

After my Ph.D. research and training on the use of satellite imagery (Remote Sensing (RS) & GIS) and the use of drone for agricultural development at the University of Ghana Legon, I returned to my country, Nigeria in 2018 with high passion of introducing remote sensing and GIS for agricultural productivity and environmental development so as to improve food security, reduce labour demand and increase farmer’s production. I realized that Nigerian maize farmers require solutions to the challenges posed by armyworm infestation. Armyworm has been identified as one of the major threat in recent time as it is capable of feeding on over 80 different crop species, making it one of the most destructive crop pests. These pests have put many farmers at the risk of zero harvest despite using recommended insecticides to combat them but all to no avail. Scientists and researchers have made several efforts to investigate why the insecticides have no effect in combating the pest. This prompted my attention in the use of RS and GIS for further investigation and close monitoring as well as constant viewing of satellite imagery on some attacked farms in 2017. Soon, during the attack in one of the farmer’s field, multispectral data at 2m resolution was collected over the field using an air borne digital camera.

A quick investigation revealed that the pest is actively operating when the weather is cool, especially in the night. During the day, the pest hibernates in the maize plant’s stem such that farmers’ effort to get chemicals at them is aborted. I observed that if farmers could apply the chemicals as late as 6-8pm before going home or very early in the morning at about 5-7am when the pest is active on plant leaves, better result will be achieved. Therefore, empowering farmers with necessary information, tools and technology needed to prevent this threat is a major way forward. It has been reported by scientists that early detection of armyworm on maize plant require little application of insecticide, little cost and little labour to attack the disease before its spread to the entire farm. Remote sensing and GIS with the use of Normalized Vegetation Index (NDVI) have been proven as the best tools effect, colour changes and or attack on vegetation (maize plant). These tools are very useful because of their synoptic view, repetition coverage and real time data acquisition.

Through my organization, I have trained some extension agents on the use of satellite imagery and how they can make the tools useful to the farmers. Each extension agent is attached to 5 farmers. Each agent is expected to send a weekly report of his achievement with the farmers, while my organization does weekly field follow-up. The training provides innovative methods of identifying attack or changes on maize plant, innovative methods of increasing production, minimizing cost, client management, production losses reduction and financing project. Farmers and ranchers receive value-added information derived from AVHRR, MODIS, ETM+, IKONOS, Digit Inc’s DALSA camera system and Positive System’s ADAR 5500 digital aerial camera, over 2 growing seasons. Emphasis was placed on data acquisition and delivery of value-added products to the farmers, developing practical uses for data and providing basic training so that the end users could understand how to interpret the information. Farmers and ranchers in rural areas would be connected via wide-bandwidth satellite link to a central distribution center at the University of Ilorin.

In Nigeria, almost all the farmers are facing production losses as a result of crop pests and diseases. This is due to their lack of proper education on agriculture as it becomes difficult for them to detect the specific pest or diseases attacking their crops so as to take appropriate measures. Some of them do not even know whether there is pest or diseases on their farms; they only realize when the farm has already been destroyed. It is against this threat that I have introduced innovative method of satellite imagery to reduce farmers’ losses. Remote Sensing and GIS will help to establish research network to promote sustainable agricultural development. The innovation will bring extension agents and farmers close together and work hand in hand. The tools will help to identify different attack on maize plant, other cereal crops and provide health status of the plants.

From April 2019 until September 2019, I have a team of trained graduate students and extension agents from University of Ilorin that would help to monitor farmers’ field as I develop data base for the farmers and then send to International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Africa Agricultural Technology (AAT) for research networking.

This innovation method was first of its kind in Nigeria and it has started generating great impact on agricultural production not only in Nigeria but in West Africa and the whole of Africa. I am applying so that I can network with other agricultural and professional experts as well as getting funding for my project. I will be grateful to be selected for the Agri-summit and my project for the N-GAGE champions.

The picture below shows airborne multispectral data at 2m-resolution collected over a maize plant field during armyworm attack in 2017-2018 growing season.

Ajala Oluwasegun Nathaniel, Nigeria


  1. It is an advantage to have a RS and GIS agriculture specialist in West Africa sub-region. It is heartwarming to note that RS and GIS are potentially capable to solve the infestation of Army worm in which case the satellite imagery has identified the nocturnal characteristic of the Armyworm as the factor for the destructive tendency of the pest. This finding is classical. In practice it is observed that the farmers do apply the chemicals on the plants in the day time as part of the farming activities but recommendation from this study which requires the application of the chemical on the plants at twilight and just before dawn is uniquely innovative. The application of satellite imagery and training of farmers on its use is a great innovation to solving the attack of Army worm on maize crop. The attack seems intractable as farmers have expended energy and finance on the attack by the worms. If there exists any effort on application of RS and GIS on agriculture in Nigeria and West Africa, I opine that this study has a significant value in crop production. The study has opened up the need to observe the possible nocturnal activities of any other crop pest that persists, not only in maize. This scientist needs support to advance his skill and knowledge in RS and GIS in agriculture as he has the potential to be useful in advancing agriculture in Africa.


  2. This type of approach to sustainable agricultural development is quite exciting. Having a research focus on prevention of pest infestations will help reduce pollution of our soils with chemicals for control of pests.


  3. Excellent idea Dr Segun. Agricultural growth is eminently needed in Nigeria now. And Maize disease control is the bump sir. Weldone


  4. This initiative is consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals on food security. It will enhance Maize farmer’s productivity while also supporting capacity building of Extension Agents


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