By sharing science-based knowledge about crop health, CABI helps smallholder farmers to grow more and lose less, increase their incomes and improve their livelihoods
With global challenges like climate change making it increasingly difficult for smallholder farmers living in poor rural communities to grow and sell food, sharing knowledge about crop health has never been more important.
The world’s 800 million smallholder farmers produce most of the world’s food, but the majority live in poor and vulnerable rural communities where they often lack access to science-based information about crop health.
Working with our donors and partners, we help share knowledge about integrated crop management and plant health with smallholder farmers to help them grow more and lose less.
For example, the CABI-led Plantwise programme improves farmers’ yields and incomes while reducing the use of toxic pesticides. Through the programme, we also help countries improve their plant health systems, so that they can prevent and manage pest outbreaks more effectively.
We have successfully increased plant health knowledge and helped farmers across the world grow healthier crops using natural solutions such as biopesticides and biological control of crop pests, helping them to use fewer chemical pesticides and implement more agricultural best practice.
Our crop health expertise in more detail
The CABI-led Plantwise programme increases food security and improves rural livelihoods by reducing crop losses. Since its launch, Plantwise has supported over 30 million smallholder farmers around the world with crop and plant health knowledge.
We work with donors and partners to deliver projects in integrated crop management (ICM), combining a variety of practices in, for example, pest and soil health management, helping farmers to grow better crops.
Access to healthy seeds and soil is essential for smallholder farmers in developing countries. We help make high-quality seeds available and share information about organic fertilisers and good soil health practices or Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM).
Stories of impact
Read about the variety of work CABI delivers, and the difference we make
Explore our recent projects from around the world
Swiss landscapes would usually be rich in biodiversity. But due to highly concentrated agricultural practices, the number of regional insects and plants found is declining. The Federal Swiss government is taking action and has introduced a scheme to promote ecological compensation areas that will encourage naturally occurring species. As part of this, CABI is working on restoring regional biodiversity in the Swiss Jura through seed transfer methods.
lant microbiomes are the microbial communities essential to the whole ecological area of a plant’s ‘phytobiome’ – a term used to describe a plant’s specific ecological area. Having a healthy phytobiome is critical to crop health, improved crop yields and quality food. However, crop microbiomes are relatively under-researched. The UK Crop Microbiome Cryobank project will develop a unique, exploitable and integrated resource that will provide the biological and bioinformatic tools to enable the development of solutions to improve soil and crop health. Six of the UK’s key crops will be the focus and usable outputs will underpin UK research activity in line with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) strategic priorities in agriculture and food security. The project will support three of the UN’s Sustainable-Development Goals: Zero Hunger, Responsible Consumption, and Production and Life on Land.
The desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria (Forskal), is arguably the most destructive agricultural pest, globally. During 2019 and 2020, the changing weather created conditions that are favoured by the desert locust for rapid reproduction and migration and led to the pest spreading through the Horn of Africa, East Africa, Arabian Peninsula, South West Asia and West Africa. It is estimated that over 25 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania will face acute food insecurity in 2020 due to the desert locust plague. This initiative tests the use of drones as a new technology to complement traditional desert locust management measures, including the development of Standard Operating Procedures for optimal use of the technology. The project is initially trialled in Kenya with the potential for scaling to other affected African countries.
In Kenya, soybean is a key crop in helping to improve livelihoods and nutrition. However, production only meets 10% of the market needs due to the effects of poor agricultural practices and pests and diseases. To address these issues, this project will provide a frontier system that integrates Earth Observation technology, pest modelling and best-practice approaches in agricultural extension to increase soybean productivity and quality. The project aims to reach 30,000 farmers, of which support will be given particularly to women farmers in helping them to engage with this high-value commodity, access local markets and improve their livelihoods.
A new invasive pest of particular concern to Switzerland’s orchard industry is the Comstock mealybug, Pseudococcus comstocki. Originating from Asia, the Comstock mealybug was first detected in 2016 in fruit crops of the Swiss canton of Valais. Following its detection, the mealybug has caused significant local economic damage to apricot, pear and apple production, especially during 2018 and 2019. Chemical control is one way of helping to fight the pest but it has produced mixed, and often, insufficient results. Biological control is another method and this project, therefore, aims to develop a sustainable and environmentally friendly, biological control method for the Comstock mealybug.
The coffee berry borer (CBB) is the most serious coffee pest, worldwide, causing crop damage in excess of $US500 million, annually. In Colombia, 75% of coffee crops are affected by this pest, where it directly damages coffee beans, destroying the taste and making the beans unsaleable. Furthermore, climate change is enabling the wider spread of CBB, especially at higher altitudes. To overcome losses, the trend amongst farmers is to intensify their activities and expand growing areas. CABI and partners are producing an alert system that uses climatic data and remote sensing technology to give farmers advance warnings of CBB surges, allowing them time to access and apply controls. Biopesticides will be profiled by CABI and relayed into the alert system to further advance the farmers’ abilities to select the right product, at the right time. Women farmers are also integral to the project and to on-farm decision-making but a lack of access to information reduces their participation. This project will focus on overcoming gender disparities in coffee farming.
The East African Community (EAC) represents one of the fastest-growing regional economic communities in the world. However, trade of agricultural products, from and within this region, has been hindered by factors including Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) issues. The project aims to assess the SPS systems and frameworks, identify challenges and opportunities for further investments and increase the capacity among EAC partner states with the aim of easing SPS-related barriers, regionally and internationally, and creating new trade opportunities in agriculture.
In Africa, the fall armyworm is a pest causing significant destruction and devastation to crops. It is estimated to cause 8-20 million tonnes of maize losses each year and due to little knowledge of the pest and ways of managing it, the impacts can be catastrophic. With partners, CABI developed an emergency response strategy that empowered local communities of six target countries to effectively manage and monitor outbreaks in their respective localities, helping to prevent further spread.
The increasing frequency and severity of pest (insects, pathogens and weeds) outbreaks are causing huge crop losses in Sub Saharan Africa. Reducing such losses requires the application of robust plant protection measures at farmers’ levels. Pest-mediated crop losses exceed 50% in both West and East Africa, but losses in northwest Europe stand at only approximately 18%. The development and implementation of an efficient, resilient and integrated plant protection system, that is guided by effective surveillance and forecasting of outbreaks, will help provide a timely and effective response and is expected to narrow the yield gap in many countries.
Potato is one of the most widely grown crops in Kenya. The sector contributes almost USD 30m per year and employs 3.3 million people. However, the yield has been reducing significantly over the last decade, 12.4 t/ha below the global average of 21 t/ha. This has been attributed to a number of problems but the most important being the high incidence of pests and diseases, some of which are seed and soil-borne. CABI is conducting a surveillance exercise to identify and map the distribution of Pectobacterium and Dickeya species which cause blackleg and soft rots and Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. sepedonicus which causes ring rot. The results from the study will advise on the required regulatory framework for the certification of seed potato and provide information for better management and control.
Papers and other publications that we hope you find enlightening