A plant doctor’s fight against rice blast in Tamil Nadu, India

Story by Malvika Chaudhary, CABI in India

Photo: Saurav Paul

DSC_4249Vargur is a small village in the Tamil Nadu state of India where paddy is grown on a large scale. The plant clinics in this region are very popular with farmers. For plant doctor Sarangpani it was a usual day, anticipating the regular crowd of paddy farmers in his plant clinic. He enjoyed this interaction with them, especially after improving his pest diagnostic and advisory skills through training provided by Plantwise and research non-profit M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF).  His rich experience as a farmer in the past had now translated into service for his community through these regular plant clinics.

Though ‘samba,’ or long grain rice season was usually quiet, this time Balchander and many farmers like him had a different story. The farmers had been seeing white spots on the young leaves of their paddy plant, which began to turn to grey-green in couple of days, bringing them increasing worry. It was time for plant doctors like Sarangpani to take immediate action to try and help Balchander and his neighboring paddy farmers.

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Roundtable brings high-tech farming ideas to India’s risk-prone ecologies

David J. Spielman joined the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in 2004, and is currently a senior research fellow based in Washington, DC. His research agenda covers a range of topics including agricultural science, technology and innovation policy; seed systems and input markets; and community-driven rural development. His work maintains a regional emphasis on East Africa and South Asia.

This post is re-blogged from the IFPRI blog.

Rice field in Bihar, India

Rice field in Bihar, India. Credit: Jim (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Imagine agriculture in India as a high-tech, highly mechanized venture. Picture a rice farmer taking soil samples with a handheld meter to gauge nutrient and moisture needs, calibrating planting along plot contours with GPS-guided tools, placing rice in precise rows using a mechanical transplanter, and doing this with the backing of reliable, customized financing. Now picture this farmer as a woman—because most of the men in her village have migrated to the cities in search of better opportunities.

It sounds far-fetched, doesn’t it? It certainly doesn’t correspond with our image of poor rice farmers toiling in knee-deep water under the hot sun and monsoon rains, prey to the local moneylender.

But this future is nearer than we realize, and it was the focus of a roundtable on “Sustainable Intensification in South Asia’s Cereal Systems: Investment Strategies for Productivity Growth, Resource Conservation, and Climate Risk Management” held on May 19 in New Delhi. Read more of this post

Factsheet of the month: May – Fruit Fly Control

Fruit fly control

Today, the European Union (EU) has imposed a ban on imports of Alphonso mango from India after authorities in Brussels found fruit flies infesting mango shipments earlier this year. This ban is likely to affect everyone in the supply chain – from growers to wholesalers to consumers.

Fruit flies are a major pest of mango and many other crops.  To find out how pheromone traps can be used to control mango, please read the ‘Fruit fly control’ factsheet, written by staff at the Ministry of Agriculture in Sierra Leone.

Factsheets for Farmers are produced by partners in Plantwise countries to communicate agricultural extension information. To see more about the content held on the Plantwise knowledge bank, please click here.

 

Update: Plant Health News (26 Mar 14)

The Plant Protection Code aims to ensure sustainable tea production in India © oldandsolo via Flickr (CC BY)

The PPC aims to ensure sustainable tea production in India © oldandsolo (CC BY)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including research into the benefits of cover crops, the release of the 2013 Global Food Policy Report and the launch of the Plant Protection Code for India’s tea industry.

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Crop diversification finds home for ‘orphan crops’

Farmer from Teso. Knowledge of orphan crops should conserved © Bioversity International/ Y.Wachira

Farmer from Teso, Kenya. Indigenous knowledge of orphan crops should be conserved © Bioversity International/ Y.Wachira

The term ‘orphan crops’ refers to plant species and varieties that of recent decades have been ignored by governments, seed companies and scientists due to their limited importance in global markets. Instead, only a few major staples have been of interest. From fruits and vegetables to grains and nuts, many orphan crops are highly nutritious, resilient to climate extremes and are well adapted to marginal soils. They are therefore of great significance for food security and the generation of income to the world’s poorest communities.

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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

The Hindu covers Plantwise India

 

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National newspaper The Hindu publishes article discussing the positive impact of Plantwise activities in the country. With support of the M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation,  ‘plant doctors are coming to the rescue’ of farmers in India. Read full article here.

How plant clinics are helping farmers in Puducherry, India

Plant clinic in Pondicherry, India

Plant doctors inspect a diseased rice sample at a plant clinic in Pondicherry, India. Photo: Sanjit Das/Panos

Plantwise plant clinics are currently operating in 31 countries in Asia, Africa and Central & Latin America. Thousands of farmers come to these clinics for advice on managing their crops, particularly crops that are being affected by pests or disease. The video below gives the story of a farmer in Puducherry, India, who got advice on how to manage the rice in her paddy field that had turned yellow during a cyclone.

For information on plant diseases in India, visit the Plantwise Knowledge Bank.

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To revitalise agricultural growth in India, top officials look to Plantwise

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With over 1.2 billion people living in India, 70 percent of which are reliant on agriculture for food and income, steady development in this sector will be a key determinant of global food security in years to come. To revitalise agricultural growth for the Indian small holder farmer- sharply declining in recent years- leaders of the national Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) joined CABI representatives in New Dehli to outline critical measures for expanding the Plantwise food security programme in the country.

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Crowdsourcing: citizen farmers help in the fight against climate change

Wheat is susceptible to the effects of climate change © CIMMYT (CC BY-NC-SA licence)

Wheat is susceptible to the effects of climate change © CIMMYT (CC BY-NC-SA licence)

Farmers in India are helping in to fight the effects of climate change by lending their data collection skills for research into wheat. Biodiversity International is working with partners such as the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and the IFFCO Foundation as part of an initiative called Seeds4Needs. This initiative aims to identify the crop varieties that are likely to perform best under future climatic conditions, via a number of different projects. One such project is currently being run in Vaishali, in India’s Bihar state. Seeds4Needs are using a method called ‘crowdsourcing’ to collect vital data on crop varieties, while farmers benefit by gaining access to more crop varieties. These farmers have been dubbed “citizen scientists” to reflect the time, effort and expertise they contribute to the project. As part of the work, each farmer is provided with seeds from 3 of the 10 wheat varieties being tested. The farmer grows all 3 varieties, then ranks them on characteristics such as yield and quality of grain.
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