Bridging the Agricultural Extension gap through Plant Health Rallies in Uganda

Article published in the Agribusiness Digest, UgandaUG_Plantwise bridging agric extension through PHRs

Plant Doctors in Nepal start Facebook group to share expertise on plant health issues

Contributed by Vinod Pandit, CABI Country Coordinator for Nepal.

All pictures by Vinod Pandit, Facebook group account.

Plant doctors in Nepal have created a Facebook group so they can share expertise on plant health issues with each other and farmers. As plant doctors were finding it a challenge to diagnose some of the plant disease problems being seen at the plant clinics, they came up with the idea of taking pictures of the samples that were hard to identify and posting them on Facebook.

They started in mid-2014 with an individual account. Later in the year, they created a dedicated Facebook page so it was easier to share information and get responses from a range of different people including plant doctors, other extension staff and research organizations.

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Anyone with an interest in plant health is welcome to join the group. Group members simply send through photos of the affected plants to the administrator and they are then uploaded on the page for feedback. The good thing is that most of the plant doctors have a Facebook account which, makes it very easy to grow the number using our group.

The new Facebook group has recently started a photo quiz. A photo showing a specific plant health problem is posted on Facebook twice a month. The first plant doctor to diagnose the problem correctly wins a prize.

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Although it has just started, the group has helped plant doctors to improve their diagnoses and recommendations. For example, a plant doctor recently posted a photo showing a plant health problem on Facebook (see picture below) and quickly received a response from a research organization. Thanks to that feedback, he was able to diagnose the pest successfully and could help the farmer.

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A similar Facebook group was recently created in Bangladesh. You can find more information on this group here:

Please contact Vinod Pandit if you would like to know more about the group in Nepal. Find his contact details here:

Plantwise publishes its 1000th Factsheet for Farmers!

The 100th Plantwise Factsheet for Farmers, written by a Senior Agricultural Officer from Zambia's Department of Agriculture

The 1000th Plantwise Factsheet for Farmers, written by a Senior Agricultural Officer from Zambia’s Department of Agriculture

Today, we are celebrating the publication of the 1000th Plantwise Factsheet for Farmers (PFFFs) on the Plantwise knowledge bank!

PFFFs are written by trained partners in Plantwise countries around the world. Each factsheet provides information on how to recognise the problem, some background details about the problem and offers effective management advice to enable the problem to be controlled. After peer review, the factsheets go through technical validation to ensure that the factsheets offer management advice that is scientifically sound, and safe and practical for a farmer to implement. Once finalised, PFFFs are distributed to plant clinics where they are used to support extension workers in providing farmers with the best possible crop protection recommendations. This makes PFFFs a key resource in preventing crop losses to pests and diseases, boosting food security and improving livelihoods. 

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Ecological Engineering Approach for Rice Pest Management-Need to Popularise its Advantages

           Example of Ecological engineering in Vietnam (Photo credit: Dr HV Chien)

The rice ecosystems are inhabited by more than 100 species of insects. Twenty of them can cause potential economic losses. With the change in the climatic factors and modern cultural practices adopted for production a drastic change has been caused in the pest scenario in the recent past. Besides stem borer, gall midge, brown plant hopper and green leafhopper which were the major problems in past, several other relatively minor pests such as leaf folder, armyworms, cut worms etc. have gained importance. In a study conducted by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), it was found that, on average, farmers lose 37% of their rice yield to pests and diseases, and that these losses can range between 24% and 41% depending on the production situation ( All the pests are generally kept under check by their natural enemies (parasitoids and predators) by feeding on them. The food web of their relationships prevents the explosion of their populations and keeps them under economic thresholds mimimising the pesticide use.

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Update: New Pest & Disease Records (05 Aug 15)

Cocoa pods at various stages of frosty pod infection © CABI

Cocoa pods at various stages of frosty pod infection ©CABI

We’ve selected a few of the latest new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases from CAB Abstracts. Records this fortnight include the first report of frosty pod rot on cacao in Bolivia, the first report of Sclerotinia rot caused by Sclerotinia sclerotiorum on lentil in Bangladesh and the first reports of Lettuce big-vein associated virus and Mirafiori lettuce big-vein virus infecting lettuce in Saudi Arabia.


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Water weed removed with surgical precision

Blog written by PT Bandara, CABI Associate, and WMDH Kulatunga, Sri Lanka.

Proliferation of Salvinia molesta in tank No.4 in March 2014.

Proliferation of Salvinia molesta in tank No.4 in March 2014. Images: Thushari Weerakoon, Moragahakanda Kaluganga Development Project.

“A looming threat imposed by Salvinia molesta was averted through the introduction of a biocontrol agent by technical experts of the Department of Agriculture.” These were the words of Project Director Engineer RB Tennakoon, of the Moragahakanda Kaluganga Development Project, Sri Lanka; a project with the key objective to improve the availability of irrigation to water-scarce farmlands and thereby increase crop production and productivity in the area surrounding Kaluganga and Moragahakanda reservoirs, as well as supplying domestic water to Anuradhapura, Trincomalee and Matale districts.

Salvinia molesta recently replaced Rinderpest virus on the list of “100 of the world’s worst invasive alien species” in a global survey conducted in 2013 where over 650 invasion biologists participated. It is a water fern which forms dense mats over water reservoirs and slow moving rivers, causing large economic losses and a wide range of ecological problems to the environment, native species and communities. It can clog water intakes and interfere with agricultural irrigation water supply and hydropower generation.

One of the water tanks at Kaluganga was completely covered with Salvinia in March 2014 and there was a huge possibility of spread of Salvinia throughout the irrigation system of Kaluganga Project. The case was referred to the Plant Protection Service of the Department of Agriculture. Within ten months the tank was clear of Salvinia, without the use of any mechanical tools or chemicals but using a control method perfectly compatible with nature. What made this possible?

It is due to a tiny weevil Cyrtobagous salviniae used as a biocontrol agent. Larvae of  C. salviniae tunnel within the rhizomes/stem causing them to disintegrate. Larvae also tunnel in the buds and adults eat buds, thus suppressing growth and vegetative propagation of this sterile weed. Technical experts from the Plant Protection Service of the DoA, who are responsible for rearing this weevil  provided a culture of the biocontrol agent and introduced them into the infested water bodies.

The elimination of this troublesome weed led to the jubilation of the Project Director. Mr Tennakoon acknowledged the support given by Mr PT Bandara, Deputy Director Plant Protection Service at the time of this project, and his team in removing this highly invasive water weed and thus eliminating a huge threat that would have jeopardized the Moragahakanda Kaluganga Project.

Find out more about management of this weed by searching “Salvinia molesta” on the Plantwise knowledge bank, including factsheets from the DoA, Sri Lanka in Sinhala and Tamil.

The case was referred to the Plant Protection Service. Mr WMPT Bandara and other technical experts visited the tank and released specific biological control agent on 14 March 2014.

The case was referred to the Plant Protection Service. Mr WMPT Bandara and other technical experts visited the tank and released specific biological control agent on 14 March 2014. Images: Thushari Weerakoon, Moragahakanda Kaluganga Development Project.

By June 2015 the tank becomes clear and the control method is a success

By June 2015 the tank becomes clear and the control method is a success. Images: Thushari Weerakoon, Moragahakanda Kaluganga Development Project.

Factsheet of the month: August 2015 – Sprays against Tuta tomato leaf miner

20157800364 In recent years, Tuta absoluta has gained a reputation for being one of the most destructive pests of tomato and can cause losses of 80-100% in the field if left unmanaged. Tanzania are feeling the effects of the yield reduction with a 375% increase in the cost of tomatoes in the past 6 months. A carton of tomatoes that cost Sh16,000 ($9.4) in January 2015 now costs around Sh60,000 ($35.3). Vivian Munisi, a trader at Tanzania’s Arusha central market, is just one of the people who are expecting the price of tomatoes to increase further in the coming months as a result of the shortfall caused by T. absoluta. 

The larvae of T. absoluta, which is also known as the tomato leaf miner, bores into leaves and fruit and feeds below their surface, forming mines as they move along the plant. The network of mines produced as a result of this feeding can also serve as an entry point for disease, which can lead to further damage. Although tomato is the main host for the tomato leaf miner, it can also affect potato and other Solanaceae plants. The pest originated in Latin America but has spread to Europe, Asia and more recently, Africa where it has caught smallholder farmers unprepared.

There are a number of management options that will help to reduce the damage caused by the tomato leaf miner.  These include disposing of infested fruit, setting pheromone traps and applying sprays of either biocontrol or a chemical pesticide. To find out more about tomato leaf miners and how these sprays can contribute to their control, read this month’s Plantwise Factsheet for Farmers which was written by an Agriculture Officer from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives (MAFSC) in Tanzania. Tomato production in Tanzania has been badly affected by the tomato leaf miner. Read more of this post


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