Pests, which threaten to destroy key cash and food security crops including maize, tomato and beans, are to be prioritized as part of an integrated pest management strategy using state-of-the-art space-age technology.
Scores of smallholder farmers in Rwanda are the latest to benefit from the CABI-led consortium, funded by the UK Space Agency and the Global Challenges Research Fund with co-funding from the CABI-led Plantwise, that is using a combination of earth observation technology, satellite positioning and plant-pest lifecycle modelling to provide an evidence-based Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE).
Farmers in Malawi are the latest to benefit from a CABI-led consortium, funded by the UK Space Agency, which is providing a Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE) to fight pest outbreaks that could devastate crops and livelihoods across the country.
The service, which uses state-of-the-art technology to help inform farmers in sub-Saharan Africa – including Zambia, Ghana and Kenya where it is currently operating – gives farmers invaluable information to help them manage pests such as the fall armyworm that is already having a major impact in Africa and South East Asia.
Home gardening enthusiasts and farmers from as far as Rio Claro seized the opportunity to have their plant sicknesses diagnosed at a plant clinic hosted by Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries (MoALF) at its Farmers’ Training Centre in Centeno. After a in-depth one-on-one discussion with Ministry representatives from the Extension, Training and Information Services Division (ETIS), participants were each given a prescription sheet which captured a host of valuable information, including a description of the plant problem and the recommended control measures.
Last year, 2013, was a productive year for Plantwise. There were over 120,000 visits to the online knowledge bank, with over 250,000 page views. This is great news because there were over 15,000 views per month, with people exploring distribution maps, browsing the image-led diagnostic tool, and looking at factsheets on treatment of pests and diseases. Of the views, about a quarter were from PW countries, where use has doubled since the same time in 2012.
We’re excited to share that at the end of last year, there were more than 7,500 factsheets publicly available on the knowledge bank, with 550 Factsheets for Farmers, 100 Pest Management Decision Guides, 3,400 Technical Factsheets and links to 3,500 External factsheets. The Technical Factsheets included 2,500 pests that affect over 4,000 different agriculturally significant hosts.
Mobile is progressing well, with over 450 Factsheets for Farmers having been repurposed and available via tablet or smartphone. This means that plant doctors on the e-clinics pilot initiative have access to factsheet information in real-time as they fill out prescription forms, making diagnoses and recommendations more accurate. Using mobile technology also increases the number of people that Plantwise reaches, especially since the app works with intermittent internet, and can be viewed offline.
The Pest Alert service had 545 sign-ups from 200 countries, including 169 contacts from the National Plant Protection Organizations.
As of the end of December 2013, plant clinics were regularly collecting data in 14 countries, with over 18,000 records of visits by farmers. Local and national engagement continues to increase in 2014, with the current numbers in July being over 50 000 records collected from 23 countries.
It’s been a busy first half of 2014, and we’re already making good progress on figures for this year. Check out the knowledge bank site to see the content we’ve added recently!
Check out this video to hear how CABI contributed to National Geographic’s Future of Food Hackathon in Washington DC last weekend. CABI’s Dr Martin Parr and Dr Timothy Holmes of the Plantwise knowledge bank describe the type of open access data from CABI which was offered to participants of the hackathon, and how these resources for agricultural information are helping to change the story for food security.
There are many ways that data from plant clinics can inform agricultural activities. Clinic data can be used to identify the distribution of major crops and diseases, and help to flag up new and emerging pests and diseases. These data can also contribute to the monitoring of the quality of advice given to farmers at plant clinics, and be used to determine what additional training plant doctors might need.
CABI Country Coordinators and EU Resource Staff for several Plantwise countries gathered in Egham, UK for a two-day course on data management, facilitated by the Plantwise Knowledge Bank team. The course emphasised the importance of collecting good quality data from the plant clinics, and managing it effectively within the country, so that this can provide information to farmers, extension workers, researchers, and other plant health stakeholders.