Plant clinics begin in Cambodia

DSCN0223 Plant clinics are being established in Cambodia for the first time.  Phil Taylor from CABI UK met up with YC Low and Mei-Jean Sue from the CABI Malaysian office to train Cambodia’s first Plant doctors at the Royal University of Agriculture in Phnom Penh. They were joined by Vietnamese Plant doctors from the Southern Horticultural Fruit Research Institute (SOFRI) who have been running clinics for several years.

Training took place at the Royal University of Agriculture and involved trainees from that institute as well as from General Directive of Agriculture, another institute involved in extension work and also  visitors from Hanoi who are keen to host Plant clinics at their institutes.

The training took its usual course of leading the students through the process of developing a idea as to what is causing the problem on the plant. On the Wednesday the newly trained plant doctors were encouraged to go out to a venue and meet with real farmers. They rose to the challenge and were able to correctly identify the causes of the plant health issues that were brought to them.

Following the training, preparations were made to provide RUA with a small computer and scanner so that the data generated from the clinics can be returned rapidly to a central office for collating.  CABI also supplied cameras and a USB microscope so that high resolution images of plant material can be sent via the internet.

In addition to the exciting development of Plant Clinics in Cambodia,  RUA is intending to set up a diagnostic lab on site so that the material brought to the plant clinics which cannot be diagnosed immediately can be investigated further in the laboratory.

On the evening before departure Phil and Low made contact with other NGOs which are operating within extension services of Cambodia.  They have offered support for the fledgling service CABI is offering by providing additional extension material and assistance in the field.

The trainers intend to return in February 2012 to provide the second Module of “How to be a Plant Doctor”.

Boosting Yields with Banana Compost

Banana plants are grown on over 52,000 acres of Egypt. Flickr/Scot Nelson

In Egypt a new ‘banana compost’ has been trialled with positive results. The compost increases crop yields whilst reducing water and fertiliser use. This new cultural method of crop management could soon be commercially produced to help Egyptian farmers

Banana plants only fruit once in their lifetime and are normally burned by farmers afterwards to make space for new banana plants. This is done on a large scale with over 52,000 acres of Egypt used to farm banana plants.

Recently scientists from Egypt’s National Research Centre have, instead of burning the banana plants, mixed them with manure and microorganisms such as yeast. This residue, called banana compost, was then applied to banana plants over 4 successive growing seasons.

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Update: Plant Health News (27 Oct 11)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest news stories about plant health:

If there’s another news story you’d like to highlight, please post a comment.

Improved understanding of Striga resistance in rice

Striga infected field. USDA APHIS PPQ Archive, Bugwood.org

A group of scientists from the Netherlands, UK and Africa have studied upland NERICA rice cultivars to identify those that exhibit multi-level striga resistance. In two separate research papers, the 18 NEw RICe for Africa (NERICA) cultivars and their parents were screened for pre- and post- attachment striga resistance. One particular cultivar NERICA 1 was shown to possess high levels of both these types of resistances.

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Anti-Terror Measures Allow Pest Explosion

Since 9/11 the number of invasive pests and plant diseases managing to slip into the USA has risen dramatically. Border checkpoints normally act as a first line of defence against these pests and diseases, however the increased emphasis on anti-terrorism measures has led to agricultural issues being ignored. This costs the USA a staggering $120 billion (approximately £75 billion) per year and is threatening some of the country’s most productive agricultural regions.

Homeland Security checking food imports (Eric Risberg/AP)

The increase in the number of invasive pests and plant diseases was triggered by an increased focus on anti-terrorism measures at the expense of agricultural protection. The biggest problem was the reassignment of hundreds of agricultural scientists to the newly-formed Homeland Security department after 9/11. This meant that instead of stopping invasive species at the border they were now involved in anti-terrorism duties. Many of the scientists resigned or retired and those that remained were replaced in the chain of command by officials with little knowledge of agricultural science.

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Breakthrough in Crop Defence Mechanism

Barley is an important cereal crop. CIMMYT.

New research at Washington State University shows that barley plants are able to recognise stem rust spores (Puccinia graminis) and begin to activate their plant defences within just 5 minutes of the spore touching the leaf surface. This goes against the previously held view that pathogens had to penetrate a plant in order to trigger the internal plant defence mechanisms. This new knowledge could revolutionise the way that farmers deal with pathogens of cereal crops such as stem rust.

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Update: New Pest & Disease Records (19 Oct 11)

We’ve selected a few of the latest new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases from CAB Abstracts. Click on the links to view the abstracts.

To view all search results for new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases, click here (>29,000 results)

If there’s another new record you’d like to highlight, please post a Comment.

Is citrus greening coming your way?

Mexico is the latest to succumb to the inevitable spread and establishment of huanglongbing (HLB) – the devastating disease of citrus crops. Mexican authorities in the states of Jalisco, Michoacán and Colima have warned growers that HLB – otherwise known as citrus greening – is here to stay.

HLB was first detected in Mexico in July 2009 and it’s clear now that it won’t be going away. Some estimates suggest HLB could affect 60% of Mexico’s citrus industry, an industry which provides employment for 70,000 farmers. SENASICA, the National Service for Animal and Plant Health, Food Safety and Quality, has invested over US$20 million to control the disease. An economic impact assessment report prepared this year by consultants specializing in the economics and finance of plant health programmes indicated total losses to the Mexican economy could amount to almost $7000 million.

Mexico’s not the first to report the alarming consequences of HLB infection. The disease has been known in Brazil for some years and is spreading throughout the region. Florida first reported the disease over 5 years ago and data from 2010 showed 18% of trees in Florida are infected – for more information on the disease in Florida click here. HLB was first reported in Nicaragua and Honduras in 2010 and in Costa Rica in February this year. A recent outbreak in the Dominican Republic is said to have destroyed 34,000 trees and left 5000 unemployed.
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Information Diffusion Key to Pest Management

A recent study has found that integrated pest management programs can experience significant lags in their implementation due to slow ‘information diffusion’ within farmer communities. Cooperation between farmers in developing countries was found to be key to ensure the successful coordinated implementation of such programs.

IPM tries to avoid dangerous pesticides. USAID Afghanistan

Integrated pest management (IPM) programs are biological approaches to dealing with invasive pests without using expensive and environmentally damaging pesticides. These can range from using pest traps, erecting insect barriers or introducing natural predators that prey only upon the pests and can fit into the ecosystem without any undesirable effects.

The study, published last week in PLoS Computational Biology, has found that these IPM programs are adversely affected by slow information diffusion within farming communities. In this case ‘information diffusion’ refers to the movement of knowledge from the scientists in charge of the project, to the individual farmers implementing this knowledge on their farms. The success of IPM programs depends on the fast information diffusion to farmers to allow a coordinated response to invasive pests. A coordinated response can eradicate an invasive pest, however a patchy response will leave small areas where the pest will still exist.

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Update: Plant Health News (12 Oct 11)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest news stories about plant health:

If there’s another news story you’d like to highlight, please post a comment.

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