Driving from Kathmandu to Panchkhal, there are occasional reminders of the traumatic 2015 earthquake. Collapsed buildings which have not yet been rebuilt and major road damage, made worse by each successive monsoon season. Farmers on terraced fields are getting ready for the upcoming paddy season. I am going to meet Debraj Adhikari, an old friend and the plant doctor responsible for plant clinics in Kavrepalanchok district.
I meet Man Bahadur Chhetri and his assistant on a bright Sunday morning as they are setting up the e-plant clinic in Gorkana, on the outskirts of Kathmandu. On the drive over, I saw plenty of maize being grown on smallholder plots and, here and there, tomatoes in polytunnels. Around the corner from the clinic, a woman is sorting potatoes on the floor of a dark storage room on the ground floor of her house. Nepal’s economy is predominantly agricultural and even a mere 10km from the centre of Kathmandu, I can tell it is a major part of people’s lives.
The spread of pests and pathogens that damage plant life could cost global agriculture $540 billion a year, according to a report published on Thursday.
The report, released by the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) at Kew in London, said that an increase in international trade and travel had left flora facing rising threats from invasive pests and pathogens, and called for greater biosecurity measures.
Looking for something to read over the weekend? The latest Plantwise newsletter has just been published, featuring stories about the programme from around the world.
The big headline for this edition is that our work has recently been recognised with two major awards: the $100,000 St Andrews Prize for the Environment and the Bond International Development Award for Innovation.
You’ll also be able to read about how Plantwise is supporting the fight against fall armyworm in Africa; how we are expanding our successful network of e-plant clinics; and how radio is helping Plantwise reach out to more farmers.
By Sam Otieno. Reblogged from SciDevNet
Mr. Guze Kampinga visits the plant clinic at Dowa Turn Off with his damaged maize samples and is received by Mrs Eluby Phiri a trained plant doctor.
“I have grown about 0.8 ha of rain-fed and 0.4ha irrigated maize (Ndimba). This year a strange pest has seriously damaged my maize and almost all people in this village are experiencing the same problem. The pest started damaging the crop a few weeks after germination and has continued damaging the crop up to now. I first noticed the tips of the maize funnel chewed and stunting yet I had applied fertilizer and there was sufficient moisture. When I checked the funnel I found small caterpillars inside, which were growing very fast. Later the leaves were chewed and holes seen in the cobs, they also feed on the kernels. I have tried to control the pest to no avail”, said Mr Guze.
The FAO estimates that up to 40% of global crop yields are reduced each year due to the damage caused by pests (FAO, 2015). Crop losses have a huge impact on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. They result in less food for them and their families and a lower income for spending on education and farming resources, including tools for the management and control of pests.
Accurate pest forecasting systems therefore need to be made available so that farmers can be warned of potential pest outbreaks that may severely damage crops. Pest forecasts enable farmers to implement prevention methods in time for them to be most effective.