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Regional News of Friday, 16 October 2015

Source: GNA

Plant Clinics for plant health - CABI-led approach introduced

The Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI), has introduced a new approach to extension services that links mobile services, to a fixed central or a national facility for an international diagnostic and advisory service to farmers.

The extension, based on a trial in Bolivia in 2000, falls under a scheme, where farmers attend plant clinics that operate like a medical doctor’s consultancy.

They provide advice on demand, tailored to the farmer’s individual needs. With access to these services, farmers could tackle pests and diseases and produce healthy crops and increase yields.

Plant clinics are supported and run by diverse organisations with a common interest in providing practical support to farmers.

Non-governmental organisations, farmer organisations, municipalities and community-based organisations are amongst the largest group of plant clinic operators, but universities, research institutes and private companies also work closely with CABI to run plant clinics.

Mr Bukar Tijani, FAO Assistant Director General and Regional Representative for Africa, has described the CABI-led plant clinics approach “as very efficient in the sense that it saves money and time by targeting all the layers of the plant health system at the same time.

“I really find it original. This approach has a huge potential and can yield miracles if properly managed; and I personally believe that CABI, FAO and other partners should find ways to sustain it,” Mr Tijani stated.

Plant clinics have a farmer friendly atmosphere that allows farmers to bring a sample of an unhealthy plant into the clinic, for the plant doctors to identify the pest or disease and advise them, free of charge, on practical ways to best manage it.

The plant clinics also allow collection and sharing of information on the extent and trends of plant pests and diseases, facilitating informed action such as publicising pest alerts, developing evidence-based extension materials and conducting relevant research.

CABI helps link each clinic to a network of national diagnostic laboratories, which could support them.

When the national diagnostic laboratories cannot help, samples are sent to CABI in the UK, which has an expert diagnostic service with an international reputation and accepts diseased plant samples from all countries.

Since 1997, CABI has helped to establish various plant health clinics in various countries across the world.

The next crucial step is to take the plant clinic concept and turn it into a fully functioning complex adaptive system.

This is what CABI has taken on by integrating it with a web-based “knowledge bank”, that serves as a global resource to help combat plant health problems. It provides country- or region-specific plant health information.

It is a gateway to online and offline actionable plant health information, including diagnostic resources, pest management advice and front-line pest data for effective global vigilance. Together the two systems have been called Plantwise.

The Plantwise initiative was launched in 2011 to help the world's poorest farmers to deal with pests and diseases and other plant health problems. In Ghana, however, plantwise started its activities in 2012.

The idea of Plantwise is to take the very practical field data collected by the Plant Clinics, which gives very up-to-date information on what problems farmers are currently facing, and link it to data from a variety of national and international sources as well as CABI’s databases and expertise.

Taken together, this would create a deep and immediate picture of pest and disease incidence which is produced and made available online.

The information would include new invasive pests and give both national and international institutes a much greater chance of stopping problems before they get out of hand, and direct help to where it is most needed.

In the process, it would fulfill the long-held wish to unite the two strands of CABI, the active field-based science and the information/knowledge-building activities to create something considerably greater than the sum of its parts.

CABI has many more responsibilities that include the option of a broader service, through Plantwise, to cover all aspects of plant and soil health, which are increasingly threatened and poorly appreciated by many.

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