Healing Plants to Feed a Nation

Growing up in a small village in Western Kenya, I often accompanied my mother and other village women on customary weeding expeditions. Whenever we came across sick plants in the fields—which was all too often—my mother would instruct me to pull them out and cast them aside.

I help farmers properly diagnose plant disease and heal their sick plants-Miriam Otipa

I help farmers properly diagnose plant diseases and heal their sick plants-Miriam Otipa

I did as she asked, but wondered to myself: Why do we simply throw out the plants instead of doing something to make them better?

At times, my mother lost nearly 80 percent of her tomatoes to plant disease. The loss was so bad that she eventually stopped growing tomatoes all together. Yet when one of our cows got sick, my mother would call a veterinarian to come and treat the cow. I wondered: Were there no doctors who could also cure our plants?

I turned this curiosity into a career in science and became the first child in my family to attend university as well as the first woman in my village to earn a science degree. Seeking answers to my childhood questions, I studied botany and zoology as an undergraduate to better understand the diversity of crop and animal pests and diseases afflicting farmers like my mother in Kenya and her peers across Africa. I wanted nothing more than to find a practical solution.

So, I became a plant doctor

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Wheat production in Pakistan – Producción de trigo en México

Infected wheat by P. striiformis/Trigo infectado por P. striiformis (Z. Kang)

Infected wheat by P. striiformis/Trigo infectado por P. striiformis (Z. Kang)

Pakistan

According to Reuters (source provided by ProMED-mail), farmers from districts southeast of Islamabad in Punjab province have seen their crops affected by unusual weather this year. First affected by hailstorm and now by heavy rain and cold weather, wheat fields of the region have been damaged severely. Some farmers have lost up to 70 % of their fields and are still waiting to harvest their crops three weeks behind schedule. Experts said that delays in harvesting and damaged plants can increase the chances of attack by yellow rust also called stripe rust (Puccinia striiformis). The fungal disease causes yellow leaf stripes, loss of vigour and stunting of plants.

Extension officers can review factsheets provided by Plantwise such as the Green and Yellow list written in Zambia* and the Plantwise technical factsheet on yellow rust to create a new and country-specific extension message for Pakistan on how to prevent and manage the disease.

*Please note that the pesticides mentioned in this factsheets are specific to Zambia and before giving recommendations check against your national registered pesticide lists.

México

Según El Diario (fuente proporcionada por ProMED-mail), la producción de trigo en la región de Nuevo Casas Grandes (Chihuahua) se ve afectada por la roya amarilla (causada por el hongo Puccinia striiformis) cual ocasionará una disminución del rendimiento. La roya amarilla es una enfermedad muy agresiva en condiciones favorables para su desarrollo (agua libre, temperatura de 10-15 °C y viento) y cuando se usó variedades susceptibles. Es la enfermedad que produce mayores pérdidas en el cultivo del trigo debido a su gran capacidad de dispersión a largas distancias. Se identifica por la formación des estrías estrechas en las hojas, pérdida de vigor y retraso en el crecimiento de las plantas.

Los extensionistas pueden revisar las hojas informativas de Plantwise como la Lista Verde y Amarilla elaborada en Zambia* y la hoja técnica de Plantwise sobre la roya amarilla para crear material nuevo y específico para México sobre cómo prevenir y manejar la enfermedad.

*Por favor, tenga en cuenta que las pesticidas indicadas en la hoja informativa son específicas para Zambia y antes de dar recomendaciones verificar la lista de pesticidas registradas en su país.

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Mango production in Bangladesh

20157800221According to the Daily Star, mango production in Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj districts in Bangladesh might be hampered by unfavourable weather this year. The farmers are worried as large numbers of fruits, up to 70%, fell from the trees before ripening. Following the attack by leaf hoppers earlier in March, mango trees in that area are now affected by an undiagnosed disease which has symptoms described as mould on leaves. This unconfirmed disease could potentially be caused by powdery mildew (Oidium mangiferae), but reliable pathogen diagnosis is needed before advising management strategies.

For advice on how to prevent and manage mango pests and diseases, such as powdery mildew, anthracnose and mango seed weevil, review the Green Lists hosted on the Plantwise knowledge bank providing cultural and biological management options.

The Green Lists are produced by Plantwise for use by plant doctors and extension workers who provide advice to farmers. To see more about the content held on the Plantwise knowledge bank, please click here.

Citrus canker – a threat to orange production in Pakistan

Symptoms of citrus canker ©  Timothy Schubert, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bugwood

Symptoms of citrus canker © Timothy Schubert, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bugwood

Last week, key players in Pakistan’s orange production came together for the first Orange Exporters Awards, organised by the Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Association and the Department of Plant Protection. During this meeting, Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research, announced that orange farms in the Sargodha region of Punjab are under threat from diseases, especially citrus canker. Mr Sikandar Bosan pledged financial reward for any farm owners that encourage new research to overcome the region’s citrus canker problem.  Read more of this post

The Hindu covers Plantwise activities in India

The National newspaper-The Hindu covers Plantwise efforts in India. Plant clinics are not only providing solutions to pest problems and are reducing the crop losses but also the farmers visiting them are realizing surplus harvests as compared to their fellow farmers.

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Farmers are relying upon these plant clinics for providing them guidance to distinguish the difference between pest and infestations, understand harmful effects of red labelled/ banned pesticides, pest resurgence, resistance to pesticides etc. To read the full article click here 

Plantwise knowledge bank wins Open Data Award for Social Impact

Plant doctors in Kenya help advise farmers about sick crops at a local plant clinic with the help of the Plantwise knowledge bank Factsheet Library app. (Photo Wright/CABI)

Plant doctors in Kenya help advise farmers about sick crops at a local plant clinic with the help of the Plantwise knowledge bank Factsheet Library app. (Photo Wright/CABI)

On 4 November, the CABI-led Plantwise programme was announced as the winner of the Open Data Award for Social Impact. This is the latest accolade for this innovative open access platform for knowledge to help farmers lose less of what they grow to crop pests and diseases. Plantwise knowledge bank Global Director Shaun Hobbs accepted the award from Open Data Institute Chairman and Co-founder Sir Nigel Shadbolt at the ODI Summit gala dinner at the Museum of London.

Also nominated for the Social Impact award category were communications development consultancy Internews and the UNHCR Data Portal.

With this award, the Open Data Institute celebrates ‘innovation and excellence in the ways open data are used and published,’ as judged by a panel of industry experts, influencers and leaders in the field of open-access technology. It is hoped that recognition of Plantwise knowledge bank will continue to drive other public and private organisations to collaborate for the benefit of rural communities and global food security.

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Mexico eradicates Mediterranean fruit fly

Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata)

Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata). ©Daniel Feliciano – CC BY-SA 3.0

Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fishing and Food (SAGARPA) has declared the country free of the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata, in a development that is expected to ease trade restrictions and boost the produce industry.

The declaration will positively impact on 1.8 million hectares of growing land for some key agricultural crops – including tomatoes, mangoes and avocados – with an annual production of 17.6 million metric tons (MT). The total value of the affected produce is estimated to be around 86 billion pesos (US$6.4 billion).

SAGARPA said the fruit fly’s eradication was a result of phytosanitary measures that had been in place for 35 years.

Fruit flies are a menacing pest across the world, causing damage to fruits and other agricultural crops with large financial consequences for international trade when export bans are imposed. For example, Pakistani mango imports were at risk of being banned by the EU earlier this year due to fruit fly infestations (http://www.newspakistan.pk/2014/06/23/eu-ban-import-pakistani-mangoes-due-infestation/), and in May this year the EU controversially banned all imports of Indian mangoes due to the discovery of tropical pests in the imported produce (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-27238239).

Do you have a problem with fruit flies in your crop? Find out how to manage fruit flies at a local level by reading pest management factsheets on the Plantwise knowledge bank: http://www.plantwise.org/KnowledgeBank/SearchResults.aspx?q=”fruit fly”.

Find out more about the distribution of the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata, by clicking on the image below. Distribution records in CABI’s products (Plantwise knowledge bank and CPC) will be updated shortly.

Ceratitis capitata global distribution

Global distribution of Ceratitis capitata, compiled by the Plantwise knowledge bank based on published reports in the scientific literature. ©CABI 2014. http://www.plantwise.org/KnowledgeBank.

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