This Earth Day, think agriculture

Corn fingers

On April 22nd, 1970- the date of the first Earth Day– 20 million people marched for clean air, clean water and improved environmental protections. These actions were designed to draw public attention to the environmental agenda and move environmental issues up the priority list of policy makers. The question is: What will unite us this Earth Day? Today we are well aware of the pressures placed on the environment, and we have perhaps more data and more tools to communicate data than ever before. Launched this week, a new awareness tool, the Plant Doctor Game, aims to reach more people with information about one critical environmental movement- sustainable agriculture– and resources here to help.

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Back to the future at CPM10

Contributed by Roger Day, CABI


CPM10 has heard how the Strategic Planning Group (SPG) indulged in a little well-considered phytosanitary “future-casting” at its 2014 meeting. Challenged by the secretariat to think about what the IPPC might look like 20 years from now, members came up with over 60 points for reflection, grouped into 7 areas:

  • Technology, innovation and data
  • Resource mobilisation
  • Advocacy and awareness through strong communication
  • Implementation, participation and collaboration
  • The IPPC as a centre of excellence and innovation
  • The IPPC contribution to food security, environmental protection and economic prosperity
  • Simplified regulatory environment for the complexities of future global trade

The CPM is frequently told that funding constraints limit activities, so it’s disappointing (if realistic) that the phyto-prophets don’t see this problem going away any time soon.

Looking a little less far into the future, 2020 could well be the very first International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). CPM enthusiastically endorsed the idea, so now the extensive planning has to begin, with details to be presented to CPM11.

And also with an eye to the future, plans are advancing for the development of an electronic phytosanitary certificate system, e-phyto. Despite some concerns over costs and cyber-security issues, many contracting parties are keen to get started, and a proposal has been submitted to the Standards and Trade Development Facility to fund the development work.

20 years ago the CPM’s forerunner, the Interim Commission, didn’t even exist. Could anyone then have foretold what CPM10 would be discussing?

Image of the Week: Smartphone Microscope

Wellcome Trust Blog

smartphone microscope

2015 is the UN’s International Year of Light, and to celebrate, the Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering at Heriot-Watt University is launching a smartphone microscope competition for students.

‘Enlightenment: Build it, See it, Show it’ aims to get schoolchildren across Scotland building their own microscopes from kits, and using them to take amazing close-up images to reveal the hidden details of the world around them.

The Enlightenment team recently demonstrated the smartphone microscopes at the Scottish launch of the International Year of Light, which took place at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The image above shows a smartphone that has been transformed into a microscope being used to examine a leaf.

School pupils and adults alike were amazed by what they could see using their own phones and a simple piece of kit. We took visitors on a hands-on journey of fluorescent microscopy, demonstrating how animals such as…

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Plantwise coming to Milan Expo 2015

Pavilion CHOver 500 million smallholder farmers worldwide provide food for two-thirds of the earth’s growing population. These farmers, and the major challenges they face due to crop health problems, will be the focus of a new interactive exhibit to be launched by the CABI-led Plantwise programme at the Swiss Pavilion during Expo Milano 2015.

The universal expo, occurring once every 5 years and opening its doors May 1st, will welcome an estimated 20 million visitors with the theme ‘Feeding the planet: Energy for Life.’ Switzerland, along with 145 countries and international organizations, including 22 UN agencies, will highlight both private and publically-funded contributions to global food security and the goal of reaching “a world free of hunger and malnutrition to which smallholders contribute.” Switzerland wishes to present itself at Expo Milano 2015 as an attractive country, which values the principle of solidarity and which is committed to responsible policies in the area of food and nutrition. The Plantwise exhibit, featuring the ‘3- minute farmer’ free mobile app game developed by Geneva-based Swiss Tomato, will give visitors a view of the challenges producing food before it reaches supermarket shelves – the stories of smallholder farmers and their fight against crop health problems.

Currently 30-40% of crops worldwide are lost to pests, threatening local, national and global food security. Reducing this loss by just 1% could feed millions more people. Since its launch in 2010, Plantwise has provided an innovative approach to agricultural development, working with national partners- over 168 and counting- to better manage plant health and support farmers to lose less and feed more.  Plantwise works with governments to set up plant clinics, like those for human health, where trained plant doctors provide farmers with practical diagnosis and advice to prevent crop loss. Supporting this network of plant clinics, the Plantwise knowledge bank ensures an online and offline gateway to diagnostic services, pest tracking, and best-practice farmer recommendations specific to every country.

Plantwise and its partners in over 34 countries are building sustainable networks of farmer support, now with over 1,000 plant clinics running in markets and rural village centres. With these resources, Plantwise has reached over 600,000 farmers and aims to reach more than 30 million by 2020 with knowledge to fight pests.The Milan Expo exhibit will highlight to visitors how international development programmes like Plantwise, through the support of the Swiss Confederation and other funding partners, are providing solutions for farmers to manage plant health challenges through timely, science-based knowledge. By stepping into the shoes of a farmer for a moment, visitors will help a plant doctor in the interactive game to diagnose an infected plant. Each time players save their crop, they earn ‘food security points’ to achieve goals like paying schools fees for their children and building additions on their homes.

Visitors to the Swiss Pavilion will experience virtual plant clinics first hand.. The free Plantwise game will be available April 16 on the Swiss Pavilion website,, for all mobile devices and as a web-based game, so people around the world can play and experience a few moments as a smallholder farmer helping to feed the future.

For more information, please contact:

CABI, Julia Dennis, email:; tel: +44 01491 829 468

Swiss Pavilion, Andrea Arcidiacono, Presence Switzerland, FDFA,

email:, tel. +41 58 462 32 97

Visit the Swiss Pavilion webpage at:

Plantwise is supported by: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), UK Department for International Development (DFID), European Commission DG DEVCO-EuropeAid, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands (DGIS), Irish Aid, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), and the Ministry of Agriculture, People’s Republic of China.

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Counting down to the 10th Session of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures

Contributed by Melanie Bateman, CABI Switzerland

CPM-10 will consider draft phytosanitary treatments for pests like coffee mealybug, Planococcus lilacinus (Peter A.C. Ooi/Tropical Press Sdn Bnd)
CPM-10 will consider draft phytosanitary treatments for pests like coffee mealybug, Planococcus lilacinus (Peter A.C. Ooi/Tropical Press Sdn Bnd)

The 10th session of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures is fast approaching (16 to 20 March), and papers related to many of the items that will be under discussion have been made available on the website of the International Plant Protection Convention:

For example, the draft International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures that will be presented to the CPM for adoption are now available. These draft standards cover topics such as the determination of fruit fly host status, phytosanitary treatments for a range of important quarantine pests such as mealybugs and fruit flies, and the international movement of growing media. Once adopted, these standards will be valuable new additions to the toolkits of those working in plant health. Following on deliberations from past CPMs, a recommendation to help address the risk of pests that can be moved with sea containers will also be under consideration.

The suggestion to make 2020 the International Year of Plant Health was an exciting idea that generated a lot of enthusiasm during last year’s CPM. This year’s CPM is being presented a concrete proposal which outlines the steps needed to make the International Year of Plant Health a reality.

The CPM will also provide an update on the recent Secretariat Enhancement Evlauation, the report of which was recently published on the IPPC website:

Plenary at CPM-9 (photo by M Bateman)
Plenary at CPM-9 (photo by M. Bateman/CABI)

Going to the CPM for the first time? has information on how to prepare and participate: Likewise, the UN Environmental Programme has extensive guides for negotiations within the frameworks of multilateral environmental agreements like the IPPC, e.g. the MEAs Negotiator’s Handbook, Guide For Negotiators of Multilateral Environmental Agreements and Negotiating and Implementing Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs): a Manual for NGOs.

Plantwise shortlisted for Olam Food Security Prize


The CABI-led Plantwise programme has been named as a finalist for the Olam Innovation in Food Security Award! This award ‘aims to recognize an outstanding innovation for its potential impact on the availability, affordability, accessibility or adequacy of food, as well as to support its further development.’ As a programme now working in 34 countries, this is also a recognition of the efforts of all the Plantwise supporters and partners- over 168 worldwide- who make this innovation approach a reality in policy and practice. Together we have reached over 2 million farmers with the timely plant health information they need to lose less, and feed more- and this is only the beginning. The final award winner will be announced on March 16. Read the full Plantwise story published on Farming First.