Update: Plant Health News (29 Jul 15)

Symptoms of bacterial blight on young pomegranate © Dr. V. I. Benagi
Symptoms of bacterial blight on young pomegranate © Dr. V. I. Benagi

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including bacterial blight affecting pomegranate quality in India, women in Kenya growing crops in sacks to feed their families and a pledge from China’s Ministry of Agriculture to reduce fertiliser and pesticide use and improve water conservation.

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Healing Plants to Feed a Nation

Growing up in a small village in Western Kenya, I often accompanied my mother and other village women on customary weeding expeditions. Whenever we came across sick plants in the fields—which was all too often—my mother would instruct me to pull them out and cast them aside.

I help farmers properly diagnose plant disease and heal their sick plants-Miriam Otipa
I help farmers properly diagnose plant diseases and heal their sick plants-Miriam Otipa

I did as she asked, but wondered to myself: Why do we simply throw out the plants instead of doing something to make them better?

At times, my mother lost nearly 80 percent of her tomatoes to plant disease. The loss was so bad that she eventually stopped growing tomatoes all together. Yet when one of our cows got sick, my mother would call a veterinarian to come and treat the cow. I wondered: Were there no doctors who could also cure our plants?

I turned this curiosity into a career in science and became the first child in my family to attend university as well as the first woman in my village to earn a science degree. Seeking answers to my childhood questions, I studied botany and zoology as an undergraduate to better understand the diversity of crop and animal pests and diseases afflicting farmers like my mother in Kenya and her peers across Africa. I wanted nothing more than to find a practical solution.

So, I became a plant doctor

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Update: New Pest & Disease Records (22 Jul 15)

Fungi associated with black mould have been identified on baobab, a tree which yields nutritious fruit © Ton Rulkens
Fungi associated with black mould have been identified on baobab, a tree which yields nutritious fruit © Ton Rulkens

We’ve selected a few of the latest new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases from CAB Abstracts. Records this fortnight include new distribution and host records for white coconut scale (Parlagena bennetti), fungi associated with black mould on baobab trees in southern Africa and two new Uropodina mites from a pine plantation in Kenya.

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Update: Plant Health News (15 Jul 15)

John Pennycuick Farmers’ Trust has improved the way that Theni bananas are traded © Σπύρος Βάθης
John Pennycuick Farmers’ Trust has improved the way that Theni bananas are traded © Σπύρος Βάθης

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including Theni banana farmers in Tamil Nadu adopting more efficient production techniques,  why GM crops have been slow to take hold in Africa and the bio slurry pellet method of rice cultivation that could save farmers time and money.

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Sri Lankan plant doctors launch e-plant clinics

Farmers listen to the plant doctors whilst they wait their turn. Ginigathhena crop clinic. Photo: Katherine Cameron ©CABI
Farmers listen to the plant doctors whilst they wait their turn. Ginigathhena crop clinic. Photo: Katherine Cameron ©CABI

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 use the Plantwise factsheets library app, ebooks library, and internet to access information resources during their clinics
  • 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.

Plant doctor M.N. Sagarika uses her tablet to record data about A. Weerasooriya's bean anthracnose problem. Photo: Abdul Rehman ©CABI
Plant doctor M.N. Sagarika uses her tablet to record data about A. Weerasooriya’s bean anthracnose problem. Photo: Abdul Rehman ©CABI

“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.

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Update: New Pest & Disease Records (08 Jul 15)

Symptoms of "crinkling" caused by RSNV in rice (A) Yellow stripes on leaves  (B) Crinkling (G.Prado, Rice Pathology Laboratory, CIAT, Cali, Colombia).
Symptoms of “crinkling” caused by RSNV in rice (A) Yellow stripes on leaves (B) Crinkling (G.Prado, Rice Pathology Laboratory, CIAT, Cali, Colombia).

We’ve selected a few of the latest new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases from CAB Abstracts. Records this fortnight include the first report of Rice stripe necrosis virus infecting rice in Benin, the occurrence of Tomato zonate spot virus on potato in China and the first report of Cassava common mosaic virus and cassava frogskin-associated virus infecting cassava in Argentina.

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