App for Southern African grass identification launched

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

The GrassPro app, an app to identify the grasses of southern Africa, was launched by Frits van Oudtshoorn during the Grasslands Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) annual conference in North West this week.

The application is based on the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)’s book, The Identification of Southern African Grasses, and is the result of a collaboration between Van Oudsthoorn and the tech company, SmartSearch apps. The latter is also responsible for the BirdPro app and the TreePro app.

Currently, the app’s paid version contains 335 grasses found in the region, while SANBI’s book contains only 212. “In total, there are approximately 990 grass species in the Southern African region, so I am hoping that there is an enthusiastic young person who will one day be able to continue this work because I might not have time to complete it,” Van Oudtshoorn said. “Photographs are the main component of the app. There are currently 1 600 photographs on the map, that were provided by 32 photographers.”

“The main objective is to help identify grass and then additionally, to provide the user with a lot of information on the species,” Van Oudtshoorn said during the launch. This information includes the grass’ grazing value, ecological grazing status, plant succession, life cycle, growth form and geographical status.

Read more about GSSA here.

A functional application

“We started the GrassPro project towards the end of 2020 so it’s been quite a few years in the making,” Van Oudtshoorn said during the launch, adding that new data would continuously be added. “The first public version of the app was launched in March 2023, when it was tested by 11 individuals who were selected based on their extensive knowledge of grasslands.”

While some of the early users said they preferred the book to the app, Van Oudtshoorn argued that the App had certain functionalities that could only work in an app. “Honestly, you cannot really compare the book and the app. There is room for both because they complement each other.”

An evaluation version of GrassPro can be found on readers’ smartphone app store or on www.alut.co.za, where user instructions can also be found. The free evaluation version contains 50 of the most common grasses found in the region. The paid version of the app can be downloaded at a subscription cost of R199 per annum once the evaluation version has been installed. – Susan Marais, Plaas Media

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