Plantwise captures the imagination of the Afghan Agricultural hierarchy through its National Forum

Group Photo NFM

Representatives at Afghanistan’s National Forum

Since 2012, the Plantwise Afghanistan team, including Muhammad Faheem as Country Coordinator, Dr Babar Ehsan Bajwa as Regional Director for CABI Central and West Asia and Julien Lamontagne-Godwin as European Support Staff from the CABI UK centre, has been increasingly involved in the agricultural development of the country. As the programme has gone from strength to strength, it has not only grown its clinic network, but also engaged regularly with the various stakeholders involved in the country’s agricultural system.

The National Forum is one of the many stakeholder engagement tools at the programme’s disposal, and it was used to full effect in March 2014. Read more of this post

Factsheet of the month: June – Wild Oat Weed in Wheat

Wheat is one of the most important crops grown around the world. Its high protein content compared to other cereals  means it is a key component in the diets of  many. It is also easy to cultivate, versatile and contains a range of vitamins and minerals.

Although pest resistant varieties of wheat have been developed, there are still numerous pests that can affect the yield of wheat, such as weeds. Wild oat is an example of one of these weeds. Wild oat resembles wheat so it often goes unnoticed until the wheat crop is already being affected. For information about how to identify wild oat in your wheat field, and how to manage this weed, please read the ‘Wild Oat Weed in Wheat’ factsheet, written by staff at the Plant Protection and Quarantine Department of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture. Please note this factsheet is also available in Dari.

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Plantwise news update May 2013

PlantwiseLeaves150x150The latest Plantwise newsletter is here. Click ‘Read more’ to find out about the launch of Plantwise in Ghana, discussions on greater collaboration between CABI and agricultural stakeholders in Myanmar,  support for Plantwise from the European Union, and developments in the Knowledge Bank.

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Plan for the Launch of Plant Clinics in Baghlan Province

CABI country coordinator briefed Plantwise program to the Dean of Agriculture Faculty, Baghlan University, Afghanistan

CABI country coordinator briefed Plantwise program to the Dean of Agriculture Faculty, Baghlan University, Afghanistan

Muhammad Faheem, CABI Country coordinator for Plantwise Afghanistan travelled to Baghlan province north of Kabul, which has great agriculture potential. Six plant doctors, belonging to Plantwise partners DAIL, AKF and Baghlan University were recently trained in how to become plant doctors. Introductory meetings Between Plantwise and implementing partners were held to set up the future plan of operation for three plant clinics in the area. Read more of this post

Pilot Plant Clinic in place at Kabul, Afghanistan

Pilot plant clinic in Kabul, Afghanistan

Farmers gather at a pilot plant clinic in Kabul, Afghanistan © CABI

After six days long training of 33 Plant Doctors of Module 1 & 2 at Kabul, Afghanistan, three pilot clinics were set up in the market of Qarabagh district of Kabul Province. Read more of this post

Plantwise 2012 Highlights

Plantwise 2012 Logo

As we move into the New Year and all that 2013 has to offer it seems like a good time to review some of the achievements of 2012 . Here are a few of the Plantwise highlights of 2012!

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Farming in Afghanistan – how plant clinics can help farmers

by Muhammad Faheem, CABI Country Coordinator for Afghanistan, and Julien Lamontagne-Godwin, Plantwise Coordinator

Afghan farmer looking for armyworms

Mohammed Rauf looking at his cabbage crop to ensure no armyworms are present. Credit: Muhammad Faheem © CABI

Mohammed Rauf is living in the Afghani province of Bamyan, to the west of the capital Kabul. His village is called Dahene Nargis in the Punjab District. Bamyan Province is an agricultural hotspot in Afghanistan. Apple, potato and wheat are the major crops. Plant clinics have been operating in Bamyan Province since May 2012, supported by the Agha Khan Foundation, the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) and the Plantwise initiative of CABI. The plant clinics are operating in 7 districts of the Bamyan and Parwan provinces and help farmers obtain information on the pests and diseases affecting their crops. Read more of this post

New plant doctors trained in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is one of 24 countries that is establishing plant clinics with help from Plantwise.

In February, new plant doctors were trained in pest and disease identification, and took part in a pilot plant clinic in Bamyan town to test their training.

The plant doctors will be running clinics in various areas of Afghanistan, which farmers will be able to bring their crop samples to for treatment advice and information.

Read more about plant clinics in Afghanistan here: http://www.plantwise.org/default.aspx?site=234&page=4837

Resilience and hope in the harsh landscape of Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a country which has suffered greatly over the last 30 years. From invasions to social strife to religious extremism, this has compounded the already difficult environmental conditions that the agricultural sector must deal with in order to feed its 34 million people. The country is mountainous, the land is dry, its winters harsh, and its summers short, especially in the central regions. Food security, therefore, should be an extremely topical issue, and one of the many hardships Afghanis have to suffer. However, in my recent trip to Bamyan province, 20 minutes in a UN flight west of Kabul, the situation I encountered was a counter intuitive one.

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Wheat rust and climate change – a possible connection

A possible link between wheat stripe rust and climate change was observed by researchers meeting at the International Wheat Stripe Rust Symposium, which convened in Aleppo, Syria last week.

The symposium organised by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) aimed to review the current global status of wheat stripe rust epidemics that have severely affected crop yields in Central and West Asia, the Middle East and North and East Africa in recent years. More than 100 scientists and policymakers from 31 countries participated and an important feature of the meeting was to share experience and approaches to manage wheat rust through breeding and control strategies in affected countries in Asia and Africa.

Recently, severe epidemics of stripe (yellow) rust have been reported in Morocco, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India, and Syria. “Some of the countries affected by rust epidemics have invested very little in agricultural research and development,” said Hans Braun, director of the Global Wheat Program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico. At the meeting, he challenged policymakers to recognize the link between scientific research and food security and to invest more heavily in agricultural research. “To combat the problem of wheat rusts, farmers in these regions need to adopt new varieties of wheat that have durable resistance to both stem and stripe rust,” said Ronnie Coffman, vice chair of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative.

Climate change, in terms of rising temperatures, and the timing and increasing variability of rainfall, is contributing to the spread and severity of rust diseases, said the press release. Emerging races of rust are showing adaptations to extreme temperatures not seen before. Scientists around the globe are working on monitoring and surveillance of stem rust and stripe rust to insure rapid detection and reporting so farmers, policymakers, and agricultural research centres can respond more quickly to initial outbreaks.

Wheat rust has been a problem for many decades, as reported in various papers in the CAB Abstracts database (Newton, 1922; Tehon, 1927; Zekl, 1934; Naoumova, 1935; Beilin, 1938; and Roche et al., 2008). Interestingly, the paper by Beilin, published in 1938 in the Bull. Acad. Sci. in 1938 and abstracted in CAB Abstract in 1939, discussed the problems related with developing hardy wheat cultivars with resistance to drought, without paying attention to their response to diseases; and how the climatic conditions exacerbated the disease spreading.

Beilin reported that Russian breeding work at the time had been concerned mainly with the development of hardy, prolific and drought-resistant wheat varieties with no focusing on their response to smut and rusts. As a result, the most popular standard wheat varieties then were highly susceptible to various rusts, including Puccinia, graminis, and the climatic conditions of the main area under winter wheat permitted overwintering of the rusts. The relatively high day temperature in June and abundant rainfall and dew in May and June facilitated their rapid development. The use of susceptible varieties under these conditions and the absence of correct crop rotations led to severe rust epidemics, lowering the quality of the grain and reducing the yields in some years and districts to about half the normal.

The ICARDA press release also reported that new rust resistant varieties are in the pipeline at international and national agricultural research centres. Breeders are selecting for other important characteristics including improved yield performance, drought tolerance, and regional suitability. 

Country preparedness for outbreaks of wheat rust involves such issues as the availability of resistant varieties that are known to and accepted by farmers, the availability of sufficient quality seeds of new varieties for farmers to use, and the availability, accessibility and affordability of effective fungicides and capacity of farmers to use them.

In most cases, the bottleneck to getting resistant varieties into the field in time to protect local harvests is local capacity and the ability of national programs to rapidly multiply seeds and deliver them to market. Improving country capacity requires long-term planning, funding, and getting farmers involved earlier in the variety selection process, says the ICARDA press release.

Link to the symposium website

Link to press release

Further Reading
    1. Beilin, I. G. (1938) Recent Wheat rust epidemics in North Caucasus and factors favouring their outbreak and development. Bull. Acad. Sci. U. R. S. S. 1938 1938 No. 5-6 pp. 995-1016 pp.
    2. Naoumova, Mme N. A, (1935) Dependence of the development of yellow rust of Wheat on meteorological factors. Summ. sci. Res. Wk Inst. Pl. Prot. Leningr., pp. 64-65 pp.
    3. Newton, M. (1922) Studies in Wheat stem rust (Puccinia graminis tritici). Trans. R. Soc. Canada, 3rd series, Section V 1922 Vol. 16 pp. 153-210 pp.
    4. Roche, R.; Bancal, M. O.; Gagnaire, N.; Huber, L. (2008) Aspects of Applied Biology, No. 88 pp.
    5. Sache, I.; Suffert, F.; Huber, L. (2000) A field evaluation of the effect of rain on wheat rust epidemics. Acta Phytopathologica et Entomologica Hungarica, Vol. 35 No. 1/4 pp. 273-277.
    6. Tehon, L. R. (1927) Epidemic diseases of grain crops in Illinois, 1922-1926. The measurement of their prevalence and de-structiveness and an interpretation of weather relations based on Wheat leaf rust data. Illinois Dept. Registr. and Educ. Div. of Nat. Hist. Survey, Bull, Vol. 17 No. Art. 1 pp. 1-96 pp.
    7. Zekl, F. (1934) Causes of wheat rust. Deutsche Landwirtschaftliche Presse, Vol. 61 No. 32 pp. 397 p.
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