Responding to the challenge of improving data collection and monitoring of tropical forages in Colombia, CIAT, in cooperation with the Universities of Glasgow, Bristol, Cauca, and Antioquia, developed working tools and methodologies for the collection, processing, and analysis of images obtained through satellites and drones to be able to model and forecast the behavior of new forage technologies that have been adopted by Colombian producers, focusing on small- and medium-sized cattle farmers from Valle del Patía, Cauca.

This research is part of a project entitled ‘Advancing sustainable forage-based livestock production systems in Colombia’, which is gathering insights using interdisciplinary approaches to monitor changes in land uses and to develop technologies that will improve decision-making by producers. For instance, forecasting biomass or forage yield and its nutritional quality using multiple remote-sensing technologies.

Currently, CIAT’s Tropical Forages team is engaged in the development of these new technologies to analyze forage performance, facilitate research processes, and identify improvements in pasture genotypes. “Using drones, precision GPS, thermal and multispectral cameras, along with satellite-based information, researchers can monitor forage agronomic trials at different scales (plots and landscapes) and traits (biomass, vegetation index, chlorophyll content, vegetation coverage, vigor), which facilitates plant physiological diagnosis and dynamic assessment, as well as real-time decision-making,” said Jhon Freddy Gutiérrez and Juan Andrés Cardoso, researchers from the Tropical Forages Program.

As part of the study, we`re working with smallholders to determine their attitudes and potential constraints to mainstreaming such technologies and their outcomes on the ground.

Brian Barrett

Scientist from the University of Glasgow

Researchers, along with smallholders, collected different pasture samples in five farms from Patía, Cauca, including: Brachiaria brizantha cv. Toledo, cv. Marandú, Brachiaria hybrid cv. Caymán, Mulato II and Megathyrsus maximus cv. Mombasa. The samples are being analysed in the Forage Quality and Animal Nutrition Laboratory at CIAT, to validate and correlate the measurements being conducted with the new tools that will allow the identification of sustainable production solutions to reduce environmental impact of Colombian livestock production.

This research is funded by the BBSRC through the RCUK-CIAT Newton-Caldas Fund Sustainable Tropical Agricultural Systems Programme.

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