The unfortunate plight of the pollinators- Who are the culprits?

Photo credit: Autan@fickr.com

Honey bee foraging on the flower

Why are pollinators declining? New research suggests neonicotinoids are to blame.

When we talk of the crop production we hardly remember to acknowledge the services of these tiny pollinators and also don’t bother to safeguard them when we invest a lot in plant protection. These pollinators play an elemental role in an important process of nature known as pollination. Pollination is an important process in both human managed and natural terrestrial ecosystems. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations pollination is one of the essential ecosystem services. Read more of this post

Plant Health Rallies to help control West Indian fruit fly in Grenada

Paul Graham, Pest Management Officer, demonstrates how to prepare the trap (Photo courtesy of Paul Graham)

Paul Graham, Pest Management Officer, demonstrates how to prepare the trap (Photo courtesy of Paul Graham)

Two Plant Health Rallies have recently been held in Grenada to raise awareness of the West Indian Fruit fly and promote the control of this pest using fruit fly bait stations. The rallies, which were organised in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, were aimed at local farmers with the first attracting 25 attendees and the second around 12. The farmers were given practical advice on how to make and use bait stations which they were able to take away with them afterwards. Thaddeus Peters (MoA) presented at one of the rallies explaining what damage the West Indian fruit fly causes and how the MoA and farmers can both play a part in controlling the pest.  Read more of this post

Plantwise in Pakistan and its opportunities to share knowledge

The group of participants for the data sharing and use workshop held by Plantwise at the CABI CWA office in Islamabad

The group of participants for the data sharing and use workshop held by Plantwise at the CABI CWA office in Islamabad

 

In June 2014, Dr Aamir H Malik, CABI Country Coordinator for Pakistan, Cambria Finegold, Head of Project Development for the Plantwise Knowledge Bank and Julien Lamontagne-Godwin, Plantwise scientific officer, organised a workshop in Islamabad that united major stakeholders in the Pakistani plant health system. These included the departments of Extension and Adaptive Research, Pest Warning and Quality Control of Pesticides, Agricultural Information, the National Agricultural Research Centre, the Punjab Seed Corporation and the Horticultural Development and Export Company.

The objective was to demonstrate the power and possible use of the data being generated by the rising number of plant clinics in the country. The participants felt that it is crucial that the data, owned by the Directorate General of Extension and Adaptive Research, is shared to a maximum amount of actors in the plant health system.  This will enable them to work more efficiently in the agricultural domain, depending on their mandates: develop updated and topical research strategies, conduct more targeted extension campaigns, understand the health of various crops in a region and develop better seeds or resistant varieties. Indeed, this is one of the core objectives of Plantwise.

Overall, the workshop was an unqualified success, as many partners are now keen to be linked to the data sharing platform that is the Plantwise Knowledge Bank, and receive topical and interesting data from the Directorate General of Extension and Adaptive Research plant clinics.

Plantwise in Suriname

Blog post by Shamela Rambadan and Abigail Rumsey

In May last year, discussions began with the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Husbandry and Fisheries (LVV) to start up a Plantwise programme in Suriname. By December, 22 plant doctors had completed Module 1 of the Plantwise ‘How to Become a Plant Doctor’ training course. In January 2014, a Partnership Statement and Partnership Agreement was signed by the Permanent Secretary Mr Gerrit Breinburg. Read more of this post

The world’s last meal- what does a homogenous global diet mean for food security?

CAB Abstracts Globe_plusDietApple

You’d think, from the vast variety of international cuisines that line our high streets and supermarket shelves, that globalisation was widening the global palate. Recent evidence suggests it’s just not the case. As the global diet narrows, concerns are growing for the world’s food security and the ecological implications of setting up a ‘global monoculture’.

A recent PNAS study found that the variety of crops we are eating is narrowing. It found that in the last 50 years the global diet has homogenised on average by 16.7%. The highest rates of homogenisation are being seen in East and Southeast Asian and sub-Saharan countries. Diets are tending to ‘westernise’ with wheat, rice and oils becoming much more popular. More traditional local foods like sorghum, cassava and millet are contributing less to the global diet. Read more of this post

Tackling food insecurity with mobile technologies

It is important for farmers in developing countries  to have access to the best agricultural information available to prevent crop losses and boost food security and wider livelihoods. Under the Plantwise programme, CABI helps local governments and extension workers set up plant clinics where farmers can come for unbiased and practical agricultural advice helping them to “lose less and feed more”. Farmers come with their crops and the trained plant doctors diagnose plant pest and disease problems and give them tailored recommendations. These clinics have a range of hard copy resources to help the plant doctors make diagnoses and recommendations. Data on the problems are also collected via paper prescription forms- the analysis of these data could allow countries to map the spread of pests and diseases and feed back critical advice. This model has been working well for a number of years but as technologies have evolved they are opening up new opportunities for getting even more resources to farmers and ensuring data is collected and fed back even more quickly potentially making it far more useful.

In response to the new opportunities Plantwise are introducing mobile technologies (tablet computers and SMS messaging) into clinics through a number of pilots. These pilots will test how and in what ways mobile technologies might place plant doctors in the best possible  position to help farmers prevent crop losses and boost food security.

Mobile training workshop: teaching plant doctors to use tablets, the Factsheet app and how to fill in 'e-rescription forms'.

Mobile training workshop: teaching plant doctors to use tablets, the Factsheet app and how to fill in ‘e-rescription forms’.

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Finding ‘a way forward’ at Sri Lanka’s national Plantwise forum

Over 60 stakeholders from Sri Lanka’s agricultural sector came together in the hilltops over Kandy in Sri Lanka recently to exchange experiences and discover strategies for implementing the Plantwise model on the ground. Video also available on Vimeo here.

Coming from extension, research, private enterprise, academia and policy-making, attendees at this national forum represented the top tiers of the plant health system, and were led by guest of honour Dr. D. B T Wijeratne , the Additional Secretary (Agriculture Technology) of the Ministry of Agriculture. The ‘Review and Way Forward Workshop’ was aimed at all those who are directly responsible for agricultural development, encouraging them to create concrete ideas for to ensure sustainability for plant clinics, or ‘crop clinics’ as they are known in the country.

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Direct2Farm reaches 4 million farmers in India

D2F mobile services have reached 4 million farmers in India. Credit: Sharbendu Banerjee © CABI

D2F mobile services have reached 4 million farmers in India. Credit: Sharbendu Banerjee © CABI

The Direct2Farm (D2F) project, run by CABI, provides mobile information services to farmers in India. Two D2F initiatives in India that use voice-based systems to communicate with farmers, mKisan and IKSL, have now cumulatively reached over 4 million farmers. The use of mobile technology allows extension messages to reach isolated communities that have few means of accessing such information. Read more of this post

Plantwise 2013 Highlights

PW collage

As we move into the New Year and all that 2014 has to offer it seems like a good time to review some of the achievements of 2013. Here are a few of the Plantwise highlights of 2013!

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Plant health system developing well in Zambia

Farmers' validation of factsheets during Plantwise training in Lusaka, Zambia

Farmers’ validation of factsheets during Plantwise training in Lusaka, Zambia. Credit: Stefan Toepfer © CABI

Since the launch of Plantwise in Zambia last year, much progress has been made to build capacity within the national plant health system. In collaboration with the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI), CABI staff have successfully trained crop officers and extension staff from the Department of Agriculture, ZARI, and Self Help Africa on ‘how to be a plant doctor’. In addition to this, training on development of pest management decision guides and factsheets has produced content that will be made available on the Plantwise knowledge bank for other plant doctors to use. A workshop on data management has also been run, training plant health experts in recording data at plant clinics, data harmonization, validation, analysis and sharing. Read more of this post

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