Update: Plant Health News (23 Mar 11)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest news stories about plant health:

If there’s another news story you’d like to highlight, please post a comment.

Plantwise at the IPPC (International Plant Protection Convention) Rome

March 2011 066The 6th  Session of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures  was held in Rome on 14th –18th of March 2011;  CABI was represented by Dr. Phil Taylor who gave a talk entitled “Maintaining global vigilance for pests and diseases”. This talk described the work of the plant clinics and how the clinic data was being added to the Plantwise knowledge bank as well as some recent research looking at the publication of new disease records from around the world.

The talk sparked lively debate about the use of data from field diagnoses in a database. The delegates were reassured to learn that the data was validated prior to inclusion into the knowledge bank and that there were filters within the software that could remove the clinic-derived data from from the maps.

Delegates from Morocco and Zambia were interested in the work of CABI and  made enquires on CABI membership and plant clinics respectively. The IPPC have asked for the presentation to be posted on their webpage.

There was also a talk by Hannah Clarendon of FAO that was prepared jointly between her and Roger Day of CABI entitled “Strategic framework for Crop protection in Africa”.

The plenary sessions in the main hall were  looking at cost cutting measures that could be undertaken by the IPPC, it is an eye-opener to learn that even the IPPC is not flush with cash.

Permanent members of staff at the FAO  knew of clinics and knew that there was change afoot and were keen to learn more. They were very impressed by the optical character recognition system we are testing saying that they had tried other technologies such as mobile phones but they did not maintain the good farmer interface of pen and paper. They asked for a copy of the plant clinic prescription sheet. They also had some reservations about the use of clinic data in a database but were reassured to learn of the planned validation and filtering available within the Plantwise knowledge bank. The new IPPC phytosanitary portal was unveiled at the conference whereby new diseases are posted online by the NPPO of various countries. Since 2006 there have been 213 new posts.

Introduction of remote microscopy (RM) into ASEAN Regional Diagnostic Network (ARDN)

The lack of taxonomists is very much a global issue, hence the establishment of the Global Taxonomy Initiative (GTI) and the BioNET International and its LOOPs. In ASEAN countries, the shortage of in-country taxonomic expertise to identify plant pests and diseases is often compounded by difficulties in access to taxonomic expertise abroad. Thus, ASEANET and CABI SEA, working together, established the ASEAN Regional Diagnostic Network (ARDN) to offer a one-stop centre that provides plant health and safety services, ranging from offering of diagnostic tools to taxonomic expertise support. Making full use of advancements in technology and the Internet, ARDN brings taxonomic expertise in more advanced nations to developing countries to help them expedite the identification of new pests and diseases, to support pest management decision-making as well as the development of reliable plant health status information for market access.
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New Plantwise videos

Today over one billion people are going hungry every day – the majority of these are smallholder farmers who rely entirely on their crops to feed their families.  Plantwise aims to help improve food security and reduce poverty by providing knowledge that helps farmers identify pests earlier so that they can control these pests before yields are significantly affected. Plantwise will deliver this knowledge in two ways – face-to-face via a network of plant clinics in the developing world to help the poorest farmers, and internationally via a comprehensive global knowledge bank.

We’ve put together 2 new videos to explain more about Plantwise, and to give a demo of the Plantwise Knowledge Bank:

Find out more about Plantwise on the CABI website.

Update: Plant Health News (9 Mar 11)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest news stories about plant health:

If there’s another news story you’d like to highlight, please post a Comment (link above).

Aid donors join forces to fight wheat rust

 Emerging strains of stem rust disease of wheat, such as Ug99, are spreading out of East Africa and threatening the world’s wheat supply. But the fight against this disease received a boost this week from a collaboration between the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The organisations have combined to fund Cornell University with US$40 million (£25 million) to continue its work to develop wheat varieties that are resistant to the new rust strains.

The Ug99 strain of rust was discovered in Uganda in February 1999 (Pretorius et al., 2000). Before that, scientists had made great strides in combating stem rust using multi-genic resistance. With the introduction of major resistant gene Sr31 and a number of other minor genes, stem rust became less of a problem to world agriculture. But now it is back with renewed virulence, and Nature reported on 28 February that in Kenya last year, Ug99 destroyed around 80% of the wheat crop. Spores have also spread to Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen and Iran. Scientists fear the other major wheat-growing regions of the world, including North America and South Asia, will be next. Continue reading