The operation of plant clinics in Ghana received a major boost with the introduction of digital devices to facilitate the work of plant doctors. The introduction of tablets and Android phones has proven to help plant doctors improve the quantity and quality of data generated from plant clinic operations.
Last night, the Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE), which uses state-of-the-art technology to help inform farmers in sub-Saharan Africa of pest outbreaks, was launched in Zambia at the British High Commission in Lusaka. The service is being developed by a consortium led by CABI and is funded by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP).
Datasets obtained from a combination of the plant-pest lifecycle, earth observation and satellite positioning, are being used to spearhead the fight against pests that devastate an estimated 40% of the world’s crops. The project will help farmers fight back against potentially disastrous pests such as the Fall Armyworm.
E-plant clinics in Sri Lanka were launched in June 2015. Since then 190 Plant doctors have been trained and equipped with tablets, with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Agriculture funding half of the total number of tablets themselves. Being equipped with tablets means Plant doctors give higher quality recommendations, and the data collection process is also considerably streamlined. Below are two snapshots of how e-plant clinics are doing in Sri Lanka.
La Gobernación de Santa Cruz por medio de su ‘Servicio Departamental Agropecuario y Sanidad e Inocuidad Agropecuaria’ (SEDACRUZ) y de DSIA, conjuntamente con el Centro de Investigación Agrícola Tropical (CIAT-Bolivia) implementan clínicas de plantas en el departamento de Santa Cruz, Bolivia, desde el 2012. El grupo coordina acciones de entrega de servicios de diagnóstico y recomendación fitosanitaria a los agricultores del departamento. Además, articula campanas de salud de plantas para diseminar información sobre manejo integrado de plagas, útil para evitar pérdidas en los cultivos.
After 2 hours drive, we arrive in Rufunsa District located approximately 150 kilometres east of the Zambian Capital, Lusaka. After exchanging pleasantries we settle down with Brian Siame, a trained plant doctor and one of the participants in our survey to find out more about plant doctor requirements for pest alert messages.
After a brief explanation of how PRISE will work, Brian was taken through the survey and its relevance to his role. “The pest forecast messages will be sent to plant doctors like you so that you can provide farmers with timely advice and help them manage local pest outbreaks,” explained Abigail Rumsey from CABI. “The alerts will take the form of short text messages, advising on predicted pest life stage and risk level, with the possibility of including the pest image to help ease identification and diagnosis”.
The Plantwise programme has expanded in terms of its plant clinic network, the number of countries involved and the number of farmers reached since its launch in 2011. This expansion has been facilitated to a significant extent by an ICT infrastructure, i.e. the Knowledge Bank and e-plant clinics (plant clinics equipped with tablets). Mozambique, Nepal, Malawi, Nicaragua and Jamaica are piloting e-plant clinics this year and more countries are showing increasing interest. The programme has overcome various obstacles and the advantages, both practical and data-based, are now being seen at a variety of locations.
PRISE inception workshops were held in Kenya, Ghana, and Zambia in March 2017. In the workshops it was recognised by partners that PRISE is a five year project and that the full benefits will only be fully available at the end. However to ensure that we deliver value in the interim we asked partners to prioritise the order in which we should focus on users, crops and pests. Each year a new release of PRISE will incorporate more users, crops and pests driven by partner’s prioritisation of which to tackle first.