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CABI’s expertise in helping millions of smallholder farmers around the world mitigate devastating crop pests and diseases has been showcased at the first International Plant Health Conference held in London.

The conference was co-organized by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) of the United Kingdom (UK) and the Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

It aimed to address new and emerging plant health challenges, including climate change impacts, the significant increase in international trade, the rapid loss of biological diversity and new pest pathways such as e-commerce by exploring more efficient national, regional and global policies, structures and mechanisms.

Dr Phil Taylor, CABI’s European Support for Plantwise, presented on CABI-led innovations in early warning systems for crop pests and diseases.

These included a look at the Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE) which use a novel combination of earth observation technology, real-time field observations, and plant-pest lifecycle to help farmers in sub-Saharan Africa deal with pest outbreaks.

Dr Taylor also highlighted the benefits of Plantwise plant clinics as well as the CABI Horizon Scanning (HST) and Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) tools.

He spoke about how all these can help farmers detect, diagnose, monitor and mitigate a range of crop pests and diseases such as banana xanthomonas wilt, cassava brown streak virus, maize lethal necrosis disease and fall armyworm.

Dr Washington Otieno, Sanitary & Phytosanitary (SPS) Senior Advisor based at CABI’s regional centre for Africa, presented on the plant clinic network in Africa and how these can also feed into the Plantwise Knowledge Bank that help farmers grow healthier and more profitable crops.

Plantwise has established over 5,000 plant clinics staffed by more than 13,000 plant doctors and with the support of over 1,200 national trainers and more than 3,800 data managers. There are in excess of 4,500 e-learning users.

He also explained how the Plantwise Knowledge Bank has 1,723 factsheets for farmers, 2,028 Pest Management Decision Guides, 6,703 external factsheets and 4,039 technical factsheets on individual pests.

This is in addition to the use of other decision-support tools – such as apps for accessing advisory materials, data collection and management, as well as diagnostic, to help farmers be better informed on pest risks and how to deal with them.

Dr Otieno told delegates that overall, Plantwise services have led to more than 20% increases in yield due to improved management of plant health and upwards of 30% increases in crop-based household income.

Other CABI involvement in the conference included Dr Ulrich Kuhlmann, Executive Director, Global Operations at CABI, who facilitated a scientific symposium on Integrated Pest Management.

Meanwhile, CABI’s Dr Dannie Romney, Senior Global Director, Development Communication and Extension, joined a technical symposium on soil health, the soil microbiome and plant health.

Bethel Terefe, CABI’s Gender Coordinator, also took part in a dialogue entitled ‘Facilitating safe trade: Why is a gender lens important?’ that included representatives from the World Bank, Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) and Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF).

Dr Kuhlmann said, “Plants are the foundation for all life on earth and improving plant health is the key to feeding the growing global population as well as supporting economic development around the world.

“Effective extension services – utilising the latest digital support tools – are essential if we are to the world’s smallholder farmers fight the crop pests and diseases which affect their yields and their livelihoods.”


Additional information

Main image: CABI’s expertise in digital solutions to crop pests and diseases – as part of a range of support that includes plant clinics – is helping farmers increase their yields and livelihoods as well as contributing towards greater food security (Credit: CABI).

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