Photo of the Month, October 2013 – Idyllic location for training in Malawi

Data management training participants at Lake Malawi

Participants during the plant clinic data management training held at the Mpatsa Lodge Salima by Lake Malawi from 16th to 17th September, 2013 © CABI

Plantwise was launched in Malawi in May 2013 after vigorous training of plant doctors in crop pest identification and how to give recommendations based on the identified pest problem. In the 14 plant clinics widespread in Lilongwe and Mzimba, there was need to understand the role that the plant clinic data will play in the national Plant Health System. Plant clinic data management training was carried out for the eight participants from the Ministry of Agriculture, Agricultural Extension and Crop Development departments and World Vision who are directly involved in the supervision of plant clinic data collection and use. Read more of this post

Cassava Brown Streak Disease threatens the “Rambo root” further north in Africa

Necrosis on cassava roots infected with Cassava Brown Streak Disease

Necrosis on cassava roots infected with Cassava Brown Streak Disease © IITA (CC BY-NC licence)

by MaryLucy Oronje and Willis Ndeda Ochilo

Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) is threatening gains made in the intensification of cassava production in Africa. Since my colleague, Abigail Rumsey, reported on the resurgence of this disease in East Africa, and spread to Central and Western Africa, there are now reports of it spreading to northern Africa, thereby threatening food security of more than 100 million people.

Cassava is one of the most important staple crops grown in tropical Africa. Its extraordinary ability to survive high temperatures and tolerate poor soils has led to it being called the “Rambo root”. It is an important source of calories in the tropics, coming third only to rice and maize, respectively. Additionally, cassava is the cheapest known source of starch grown by poor farmers – many of whom are women – often on marginal land.

The threat posed by CBSD is particularly alarming considering its symptoms are not easily recognizable to an untrained or inexperienced person, and worse still, its symptoms are often mistaken for the more familiar Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD). In addition, rising temperatures and changes in the genetic makeup of whiteflies threatens to gun down the “Rambo root”.

Tertiary vein chlorosis of cassava leaves caused by CBSD

Tertiary vein chlorosis of cassava leaves caused by CBSD © IITA (CC BY-NC licence)

CBSD manifests itself on leaves as patches of yellow areas (chlorosis), on the stems as dark-brown streaks and spots, and dark brown hard rots can be seen on the roots when cut. In severe attack, there are radial constrictions and/or pits on the root surface.

There is no specific international research organization for cassava, unlike wheat, rice, potato and maize, and no private-sector interest. Recently, initiatives and projects on cassava diseases have been spearheaded by national research organizations, such as the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and some international NGOs. However, focus has been on the Cassava Mosaic Disease, at the expense of CBSD. However, there seems to be a change of heart (and rightly so) with players such as Cassava Regional Centre of Excellence (CRCoE) working towards solutions for this devastating disease. The CRCoE, established under the East Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (EAAPP) was funded by the World Bank.

Some of the recommended management practices include the use of improved disease-free planting material, scouting and uprooting diseased plants, crop rotation and keeping weed-free fields to reduce whitefly infestation. While there seems to be some semblance of activity towards addressing the challenge posed by CBSD, a lot of research and awareness campaigns still need to be done considering the aforementioned threats and the crucial role cassava plays in food security.

Source: http://www.ciatnews.cgiar.org/2013/05/06/waging-war-on-cassava-viruses-couldnt-come-sooner

Knowledge Bank interview with Agfax radio in Africa

Plantwise factsheet Tanzania

Plantwise factsheets for farmers are freely available on the Knowledge Bank © CABI

Access to agricultural information especially crop pest information, e.g pest identity and practical control options, is an essential ingredient in increasing agricultural production in developing countries. Where available, such information is always inaccessible and poorly developed and farmers hardly understand the contents. The Knowledge Bank, which was launched in July 2012, is part of the wider Plantwise programme, an initiative led by CABI, to help smallholder farmers lose less of what they grow to insect pests and diseases. The Knowledge Bank is an online open-access resource and plays a key role in the access to a wide range of information on crop pests from international scientific literature to simple, actionable factsheets that the farmers can use to solve key pests problems they encounter. This connects both agricultural researchers, extension agents and the farmers in developing countries to reliable and appropriate plant health information wherever they may be.  Visitors to the website are advised to sign up for new crop pest and plant health new alerts which are sent directly to their e-mails.

Agfax, a media based organization with millions of listeners throughout Africa who include farmers, traders, entrepreneurs, field workers – as well as research and development organizations, conducted an interview with me to broadcast on the website to enable wider reach to potential users of the Knowledge Bank. Read more of this post

Update: Plant Health News (07 Jun 12)

Desert locustHere’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including imminent risk from Desert Locust swarms in Niger and Mali, the Asian psyllid being found on three fruit trees in California sparking worries on citrus greening disease in the area, and the Sigatoka banana disease that is threatening banana production in Ecuador.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news! Read more of this post

Pesticide use does not guarantee increased yields

Theobroma cacao © sarahemcc (CC BY 2.0 license)

The ongoing decline of pollinators has caused a global concern. Factors contributing to this decline include among others, use of pesticides, habitat destruction such as bush burning, bee diseases and pests (Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and Varroamite), and climate change.  Research in Ghana has revealed that cocoa and oil palm production is on the decline as pesticide use increase is killing the pollinating insects. The research, carried out by entomologists and plant scientists from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), was presented at a seminar on pollination in Fumesua, Ghana last month (16 April).

Read more of this post

Update: Plant Health News (23 May 12)

Banana Xanthomonas Wilt- infected banana plants in banana farm. (Photo credit: IITA Image Library via Flickr.com)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including reports linking pesticide use to reduced cocoa and oil palm yields in Ghana,  an unidentified maize disease in Kenya, and the destructive banana disease in Congo-Kinshasa that is threatening food security.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news! Read more of this post

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