The Pest Smart program aims to enable farmers, particularly women and marginalized groups, to become resilient against potential pests and diseases outbreaks due to climate change.
The Pest Smart program promotes the adoption of climate-smart practices that manage pests and diseases, and empowers women to be actively involved in the decision-making process. It also serves as a platform to build the capacity and encourage participation of women farmers in dealing with pests and diseases (P&D).
“I would like to see the scientist working on beans; do you know where I can find him?” I got asked this question more times that I could count.
As a young female African researcher working in Malawi for an international agriculture research organization, my office was the first in a long corridor of offices where we were hosted by the National Research Organization. In the eyes of the regular visitors to the office, I did not fit the image of an agricultural scientist.
A recent study by the International Food Policy Research Institute shows that in 2014, only 24 percent of researchers working in the agricultural sciences were women, and only 17 percent of those in leadership positions were women in a sample of 40 sub-Saharan African countries. This matters because the evidence shows that better jobs for women in agriculture leads to higher wages and greater decision making — which ultimately has a positive impact on the ways households spend money on children’s nutrition, health, and education. Having more women in agricultural research also ensures that this workforce is representative of its client base: Smallholder farmers, the majority of whom are women.
In 2011, Noah Phiri was working with local farmers in Kenya to combat the fungal pathogen that causes coffee leaf rust when another virulent plant disease began wiping out maize in the country’s southwest corner. Infected plants developed pale streaks on their leaves, then wilted and died. Some farmers lost as much as 90 percent of their crop that year. Phiri, a plant pathologist at the U.K.-based Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), raced to identify the culprit. He and his colleagues collected samples of sick plants and sent them off to the plant clinic at the Food and Environment Research Agency (now Fera Science) in York, U.K. There, researchers sequenced RNA molecules expressed in the infected corn and identified two viruses that were at the root of the epidemic.
Crop diseases are an ever-increasing worldwide threat and estimated to be the cause of the 20-40% decrease in global agricultural productivity. With this boom in plant diseases affecting agricultural practices, there is therefore also an increased demand for research and the implementation of disease control and management schemes.
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 grapevine yellow speckle viroids in Nigeria, the first report of tomato ringspot virus (Secoviridae) in a vineyard in Ohio, USA and the first report of pepper vein yellow virus in Pakistan.
“Bananas, along with lots of crop plants are under threat from pests and diseases. The reason that bananas are particularly threatened is their lack of genetic diversity.”
Listen to CABI’s very own Rob Reeder talk to Greg Peterson on this podcast from The Urban Farm. Rob talks in detail about the increasing threat to the global banana crop industry but he also tells Greg all about Plantwise.
A recent awareness raising workshop for the plant doctor training of Plantwise was held at the Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University (ZAFU) in Hangzhou in Eastern China. The meeting was aimed at raising awareness among university students, the private sector, and plant protection experts about plant doctor training and certification. About 70 participants were present including around 30 undergraduate and graduate students. It also helped to lay the foundations for potential collaboration between ZAFU, CABI and an agri-business company affiliated to the China Wisdom City Working Committee (CCIT).