So how can we deal with all this plant clinic data?

Plant clinic in Pondicherry, IndiaThere are many ways that data from plant clinics can inform agricultural activities. Clinic data can be used to identify the distribution of major crops and diseases, and help to flag up new and emerging pests and diseases. These data can also contribute to the monitoring of the quality of advice given to farmers at plant clinics, and be used to determine what additional training plant doctors might need.

Plantwise Online Management System graphs
The Plantwise Online Management System will enable plant health stakeholders to view analyses of their plant clinic data © CABI

CABI Country Coordinators and EU Resource Staff for several Plantwise countries gathered in Egham, UK for a two-day course on data management, facilitated by the Plantwise Knowledge Bank team. The course emphasised the importance of collecting good quality data from the plant clinics, and managing it effectively within the country, so that this can provide information to farmers, extension workers, researchers, and other plant health stakeholders.

Data management trainees practise harmonising data
Data management trainees practise harmonising data © CABI

The trainees got to try out some of the Knowledge Bank data management tools such as the Excel data entry template for digitising information from the paper clinic prescription forms, and the Plantwise Online Management System that will hold information about clinics and provide analyses of clinic data. One of the most interactive activities involved trying out harmonisation of crop and pest data. This demonstrated the challenges surrounding data harmonisation, and led to much discussion: How can you tell that the plant doctor managed to diagnose a specific virus? To what level should pest species be harmonised – group (e.g. aphid), genus, species? How do you determine what is a word with a typo and what is a separate word? Is ‘potato’ the same crop species in all countries?

The workshop participants are working hard at helping Plantwise countries to integrate data management into their plant health systems. As more plant clinic data is collected and analysed, countries will be able to get a much more comprehensive overview of agriculture in their country, and identify areas where farmers would benefit from more information, helping them to grow more and lose less.

Data management workshop participants
Data management workshop participants at CABI Egham © CABI

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