The Plantwise training for plant doctors (Module 1: Field diagnostics and plant clinic operation) is unique in that it is the only international training that focuses on field diagnosis and uses live plant samples in the learning process. The training takes advantage of the fact that many of the symptoms caused by the different groups of pathogens are often similar irrespective of the host plant. The training has been widely praised by those just starting a career in field diagnostics as well as those trained to PhD levels as it is rare that the symptoms are laid out in this way.
All too often people will rush into making a diagnosis but Module 1 encourages the trainee to take time and to consider all aspects of the symptoms and to really think about the potential causes.
The training offered in field diagnostics by Plantwise in Module 1 is very generic, focusing on the principles of field diagnosis. The fact is that many of the solutions for the problems, e.g. cultural controls/fungicides/insecticides/etc., are not specific, meaning they are typically effective against all of the species in a pest group. Therefore it is often adequate to identify the group of pathogen or pest.
Since the Plantwise training only goes as far as the general group of the disorder, additional resources are needed for when a more specific diagnosis is required (if biological control was to be used for example). To address this problem Plantwise has produced some photoguides to help guide extension workers to the exact disorder. Essentially it invites the reader to compare the sample with the photo in the book.
The photoguides are crop specific and each problem often has several photos illustrating the various symptoms (on fruit leaves stems etc) or the various life stages of the pest. The guides are divided up so that that similar symptoms are near each other on the page and can easily be compared. For example even though they are very different organisms, mite damage may look superficially like a viral mosaic and the photos of these symptoms are near one another in the guides. However the photo of the actual mite would be alongside small insects with which it could be confused. The whole book is cross referenced so that it is possible to navigate around looking at all the photos associated with a particular pest. Along with each photo there is a brief description of the pest or disease offering additional information useful for diagnosis not seen in the photo.
Photoguides on coffee, mango, citrus, onion, cabbage, sorghum, tomato, potato, rice, and Beans have been created thus far with more in the pipeline.