Plant doctors: a critical need.
There is little doubt among agricultural scientists about the gravity of the challenges posed by pests and suboptimal environmental conditions including global climate change, and movement of invasive species to providing sustainably produced food, fodder, fiber and bioenergy for an ever-increasing world population. Current management of pests (including arthropods, plant pathogens and weeds) in many cases is solely based on the use of pesticides; but reliance on this single strategy may lead to pesticide misuse and the development of pesticide resistance. Agricultural pesticide misuse and overuse has been documented in many regions including Southeast Asia. Concern about the impact of crop production practices on the environment may lead to a prescriptive approach to agriculture as is currently being practiced in California, USA and under discussion in Taiwan. Plant Doctors, plant health practitioners academically trained across agricultural science discipline, including both pest-related (entomology, plant pathology, nematology, weed science, and other pests) and plant-related (agronomy, horticulture, soil and water science, etc.) disciplines, have become key links in sustainably meeting these production challenges. Since 1999, this new approach to training plant health professionals has been adopted by 11 universities in the USA (Florida, Nebraska, Ohio) and Asia (Japan, South Korea and Taiwan), and three are in development in Egypt, mainland China, and Thailand. More than 1,800 plant doctors have been trained, many of whom have developed exceptional careers as practitioners in diverse areas including sustainable crop production, food security and safety, crop consulting, extension, associated agriculture industries, landscape plant health, invasive species management, teaching and research.