Factsheet of the month: April – Wheat stem rust

wheat stem rustLast week, the Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security took place in Mexico, bringing together thought leaders, policymakers, and leading agricultural research-for-development organizations to discuss the role of wheat in the future of food security. Wheat is an extremely important crop that provides around 20% of the world’s calories but this staple crop is threatened in some areas by a fungal disease called stem rust.

To find out about the symptoms and management of wheat stem rust, please click the Wheat stem rust factsheet which was produced in Rwanda (also available in Kinyarwandan).

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Plantwise Factsheets App gets the attention of BBC radio

Plantwise and White October met up for an interview on BBC Radio Oxford’s Kat Orman show to talk about how the new Plantwise Factsheets Library app will help get good crop information out to local extension workers, helping them to help farmers.


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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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Plantwise Afghanistan and the Knowledge Bank join Global Food Security Conference in the Netherlands

Contributed with Julia Dennis

This month, academics, researchers, government agencies, NGOs and corporations convened in the Netherlands to talk about the future of food. The question of how we will feed 9 billion people by 2050 was the major issue on the table, but much of the discussion also called for a careful focus on the imbalance occurring today between the nearly 2 billion undernourished and 1.5 billion over-nourished people on the planet.

Radio interview with Shaun Hobbs

Knowledge Bank Global Director Shaun Hobbs interviewed on Deustche Welle

The First International Conference on Global Food Security, hosted by the University of Wageningen, brought over 800 experts together for oral and poster presentations, in addition to key-note addresses and panel debates on all variety of topics pertaining to food security. The large turnout and eagerness of individuals in attendance demonstrated that the time is right to exchange knowledge from across disciplines. More to the point, with the evolution from the Millienium Development Goals to objectives of sustainable development set to take over in 2015, there is an urgent need for research to inform policy for future action.
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Plantwise visits ‘open source GIS’ conference, FOSS4G 2013

On Thursday 19th November, I attended the ‘Free and Open Source Software For GIS’ (FOSS4G) conference in Nottingham, UK with two of my colleagues from the Plantwise Knowledge Bank. The conference, organised by OSGeo, had the strapline “Geo For All” and aimed to show that the tools that this Geographic Information Systems (GIS) community is developing can be, and are being, used by people in many different areas of work. We were visiting the conference to get an update on what open source software is now available, and how other people are tailoring and combining these packages to suit their needs. Read more of this post

Plantwise knowledge bank well-received in Brazil

Carlos Frederico Vilcem, Vice President of Faculty of Agricultural Science at ENESP (centre) with the CABI team.

Carlos Frederico Vilcem, Vice President of the Faculty of Agricultural Science at UNESP (centre) with the CABI team.

Last week, Cambria Finegold, Head of Project Development for the Plantwise knowledge bank, gave a seminar at São Paulo State University (UNESP), one of the largest agricultural universities in Brazil. The seminar, entitled “The Plantwise Knowledge Bank for research on Distribution, Identification, and Control of Agricultural Pests – Use and Potential” generated positive feedback from attendees and sparked some excellent discussions about the Plantwise initiative.

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Record crop losses cost the United States $17.3B last year

iStock_000007228944LargeOver $17 billion was spent in 2012 on farm insurance claims for destroyed crops in the U.S., up from an average of $4.1 billion per year from 2001 until 2011. This record-breaking jump in insurance pay-outs was in large part due to extreme weather conditions over the past growing season. Drought, heat and hot wind accounted for 97 percent of destruction in Iowa alone, with the third largest agricultural GDP in the U.S. These figure come from a report published by the National Research Defense Council (NRDC) which argues that destructive conditions such as these are expected to become only more common, and action will have to be taken to restructure the insurance and pay-out system within the U.S. The question is whether these decisions will echo through emerging farm insurance markets abroad.

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Plantwise Photo Of The Month- September

The participants of of Plantwise Module 4 training in Sri Lanka, which took place in July. Module 4 is a training module which aims to look into managing and monitoring clinic data collected at plant clinics

The participants of of Plantwise Module 4 training in Sri Lanka, which took place in July. Module 4 is a training module which aims to look into managing and monitoring clinic data collected at plant clinics

This photo was taken in July when data management training and Module 4 training took part in Sri Lanka. Twenty-seven participants took part in the Module 4 training, in which methods for managing and monitoring clinic data collected at plant clinics in Sri Lanka were discussed.


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