Today, 15 October, is the International Day of Rural Women. The majority of rural women depend on natural resources and agriculture for their livelihoods. In developing countries, rural women represent approximately 43% of the agricultural labour force, and produce, process and prepare much of the food available, thereby giving them primary responsibility for food security.
Ensuring rural women’s access to reliable agricultural advice can make the difference between their crop succeeding or failing. CABI works alongside national extension services to deliver information to farmers in the field, through face to face plant clinics, voicemail/SMS messages, radio and magazines, through projects such as Plantwise (www.plantwise.org), Direct2Farm (www.cabi.org/direct2farm) and the Africa Soil Health Consortium (www.africasoilhealth.cabi.org).
The three women pictured above are tea pickers in Sri Lanka. Anyone who has visited tea growing countries will notice the large commercial tea farms, and women in the fields picking the tea leaves. Smallholders also contribute to tea production in Sri Lanka. Regulated by the Tea Smallholding Authority, they sell tea leaves from their 0.5-2 acre plots to the big tea companies. Tea blister blight is the main problem for tea farmers in Sri Lanka. In June, farmer Punchi brought a diseased tea leaf into the plant clinic in Nuwara Eliya. The plant doctor was able to diagnose blister blight and recommend how to manage the problem. Punchi left the clinic with a new hope that she could stop the disease from spreading and save the rest of her tea crop for selling to the tea companies.
Blog written by PT Bandara, CABI Associate, and WMDH Kulatunga, Sri Lanka.
“A looming threat imposed by Salvinia molesta was averted through the introduction of a biocontrol agent by technical experts of the Department of Agriculture.” These were the words of Project Director Engineer RB Tennakoon, of the Moragahakanda Kaluganga Development Project, Sri Lanka; a project with the key objective to improve the availability of irrigation to water-scarce farmlands and thereby increase crop production and productivity in the area surrounding Kaluganga and Moragahakanda reservoirs, as well as supplying domestic water to Anuradhapura, Trincomalee and Matale districts.
Salvinia molesta recently replaced Rinderpest virus on the list of “100 of the world’s worst invasive alien species” in a global survey conducted in 2013 where over 650 invasion biologists participated. It is a water fern which forms dense mats over water reservoirs and slow moving rivers, causing large economic losses and a wide range of ecological problems to the environment, native species and communities. It can clog water intakes and interfere with agricultural irrigation water supply and hydropower generation.
One of the water tanks at Kaluganga was completely covered with Salvinia in March 2014 and there was a huge possibility of spread of Salvinia throughout the irrigation system of Kaluganga Project. The case was referred to the Plant Protection Service of the Department of Agriculture. Within ten months the tank was clear of Salvinia, without the use of any mechanical tools or chemicals but using a control method perfectly compatible with nature. What made this possible?
It is due to a tiny weevil Cyrtobagous salviniae used as a biocontrol agent. Larvae of C. salviniae tunnel within the rhizomes/stem causing them to disintegrate. Larvae also tunnel in the buds and adults eat buds, thus suppressing growth and vegetative propagation of this sterile weed. Technical experts from the Plant Protection Service of the DoA, who are responsible for rearing this weevil provided a culture of the biocontrol agent and introduced them into the infested water bodies.
The elimination of this troublesome weed led to the jubilation of the Project Director. Mr Tennakoon acknowledged the support given by Mr PT Bandara, Deputy Director Plant Protection Service at the time of this project, and his team in removing this highly invasive water weed and thus eliminating a huge threat that would have jeopardized the Moragahakanda Kaluganga Project.
A recent article in the Sri Lanka Plant Protection Industry Journal highlights how the crop clinic concept in Sri Lanka has promoted effective, judicious use of pesticides. PT Bandara and WMDH Kulatunga describe how the Permanent Crop Clinic Programme (PCCP), established in 2009, provides effective advice that both prevents the destruction of natural enemies due to the use of broad spectrum pesticides, and reduces outbreaks of Chronic Kidney Disease, which has become a major socioeconomic issue due to pesticide residues in food. Access to Pest Management Decision Guides and a knowledge bank of information helps plant doctors to find alternative advice where appropriate for prevention, monitoring and control of crop pests in order to ensure minimal risks to human health and the environment.
Read the full article by clicking on the image or the link below.
24 June marked the launch of the first e-plant clinics pilot in Sri Lanka. Experienced plant doctors from ten plant clinics in Nuwara Eliya district came together to learn how tablet computers could enhance the current Permanent Crop Clinic Programme (PCCP) led by the Plant Protection Service, Department of Agriculture. Plant doctors learnt:
how electronic data collection and submission could make it easier to collect data about crops and pests in the area
how to communicate with other plant doctors and local diagnostic experts using a chat app
how to ensure that farmers receive good advice in a written recommendation, in the language and format (either SMS or paper) chosen by the farmer
All of this means that the plant doctors’ job should be a little easier in future and they have access to more support for diagnosing pests and providing management advice.
“It’s easy to carry [the tablet] to the field or any other place with lots of information inside it… The Plantwise factsheet app is easy to use and no need to carry lots of heavy books. Copy paste is more easy, accurate, comprehensive and detailed.” – NMM Chandana Kumara, plant doctor, Bulugahapitiya plant clinic.
It also means that new data can be submitted, collated and analysed quickly after the plant clinics so that stakeholders in the plant health system can use it to track distribution of pests, monitor quality of advice given to farmers, and feed back information to improve the service in future.
“For sharing and using the data e-crop clinics are very good because the data will come quicker. Previously it took a long time to process data – we would see it maybe the next season, not the same season.” – PT Bandara, previous National Coordinator, PCCP.
“Making the data available quicker will help me to monitor the crop clinics in Nuwara Eliya more easily. I can’t visit every clinic in the field but seeing the data will let me know what is going on.” – Ms PK Senevirathne, Deputy Director Extension, Nuwara Eliya district.
SAWBO is a University of Illinois-based programme. They work in three main areas: agriculture, health and women’s empowerment. They transform extension information into animations, which are then voice overlaid into a range of languages from around the world. All SAWBO animations are made freely available to anyone wishing to use them for educational purposes. Animations can be downloaded from SAWBO channels and used on computers, tablets, cell phones, TVs, and overhead projection systems.
Agricultural videos include “Biocontrol of legume pod borer (Maruca vitrata)”, “Natural insecticide from neem seeds” and a number of videos on preventing postharvest loss.
Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fishing and Food (SAGARPA) has declared the country free of the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata, in a development that is expected to ease trade restrictions and boost the produce industry.
The declaration will positively impact on 1.8 million hectares of growing land for some key agricultural crops – including tomatoes, mangoes and avocados – with an annual production of 17.6 million metric tons (MT). The total value of the affected produce is estimated to be around 86 billion pesos (US$6.4 billion).
SAGARPA said the fruit fly’s eradication was a result of phytosanitary measures that had been in place for 35 years.
Find out more about the distribution of the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata, by clicking on the image below. Distribution records in CABI’s products (Plantwise knowledge bank and CPC) will be updated shortly.
According to IPP Media, over 8,000 people in 15 villages in Kagera region of Tanzania are in dire need of food relief following an outbreak of banana bacterial disease that has destroyed 90% of the banana crop. Bananas are the staple food for people in the region. Adam Malima, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food and Cooperatives, told the National Assembly earlier this week that the government has allocated 300 tonnes of maize to be distributed to people in the area.
Banana bacterial wilt (or “banana slim”) is easily spread through pollinating insects, tools and planting material. Disease management is notoriously difficult, often involving cultural methods that can be impractical for smallholders. One easy method of prevention involves breaking off the male flower bud using a fork-shaped stick.
The male flower bud is often where the bacteria enters the plant. Pollinating insects collect nectar from the bud and carry nectar from plant to plant, transferring the bacteria at the same time. Removing the male bud soon after formation of the last cluster stops insects from spreading the disease. A forked stick can be used to twist and break the bud. This is better than cutting the bud off with a knife which might spread the bacteria.