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Nanosensor can alert a smartphone when plants are stressed

Carbon nanotubes embedded in leaves detect chemical signals that are produced when a plant is damaged

Date:
April 15, 2020
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
Engineers can closely track how plants respond to stresses such as injury, infection, and light damage using sensors made of carbon nanotubes. These sensors can be embedded in plant leaves, where they report on hydrogen peroxide levels.
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MIT engineers have developed a way to closely track how plants respond to stresses such as injury, infection, and light damage, using sensors made of carbon nanotubes. These sensors can be embedded in plant leaves, where they report on hydrogen peroxide signaling waves.

Plants use hydrogen peroxide to communicate within their leaves, sending out a distress signal that stimulates leaf cells to produce compounds that will help them repair damage or fend off predators such as insects. The new sensors can use these hydrogen peroxide signals to distinguish between different types of stress, as well as between different species of plants.

“Plants have a very sophisticated form of internal communication, which we can now observe for the first time. That means that in real-time, we can see a living plant’s response, communicating the specific type of stress that it’s experiencing,” says Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT.

This kind of sensor could be used to study how plants respond to different types of stress, potentially helping agricultural scientists develop new strategies to improve crop yields. The researchers demonstrated their approach in eight different plant species, including spinach, strawberry plants, and arugula, and they believe it could work in many more.

Strano is the senior author of the study, which appears today in Nature Plants. MIT graduate student Tedrick Thomas Salim Lew is the lead author of the paper.

Embedded sensors

Over the past several years, Strano’s lab has been exploring the potential for engineering “nanobionic plants” — plants that incorporate nanomaterials that give the plants new functions, such as emitting light or detecting water shortages. In the new study, he set out to incorporate sensors that would report back on the plants’ health status.

Strano had previously developed carbon nanotube sensors that can detect various molecules, including hydrogen peroxide. About three years ago, Lew began working on trying to incorporate these sensors into plant leaves. Studies in Arabidopsis thaliana, often used for molecular studies of plants, had suggested that plants might use hydrogen peroxide as a signaling molecule, but its exact role was unclear.

Lew used a method called lipid exchange envelope penetration (LEEP) to incorporate the sensors into plant leaves. LEEP, which Strano’s lab developed several years ago, allows for the design of nanoparticles that can penetrate plant cell membranes. As Lew was working on embedding the carbon nanotube sensors, he made a serendipitous discovery.

“I was training myself to get familiarized with the technique, and in the process of the training I accidentally inflicted a wound on the plant. Then I saw this evolution of the hydrogen peroxide signal,” he says.

He saw that after a leaf was injured, hydrogen peroxide was released from the wound site and generated a wave that spread along the leaf, similar to the way that neurons transmit electrical impulses in our brains. As a plant cell releases hydrogen peroxide, it triggers calcium release within adjacent cells, which stimulates those cells to release more hydrogen peroxide.

“Like dominos successively falling, this makes a wave that can propagate much further than a hydrogen peroxide puff alone would,” Strano says. “The wave itself is powered by the cells that receive and propagate it.”

This flood of hydrogen peroxide stimulates plant cells to produce molecules called secondary metabolites, such as flavonoids or carotenoids, which help them to repair the damage. Some plants also produce other secondary metabolites that can be secreted to fend off predators. These metabolites are often the source of the food flavors that we desire in our edible plants, and they are only produced under stress.

A key advantage of the new sensing technique is that it can be used in many different plant species. Traditionally, plant biologists have done much of their molecular biology research in certain plants that are amenable to genetic manipulation, including Arabidopsis thaliana and tobacco plants. However, the new MIT approach is applicable to potentially any plant.

“In this study, we were able to quickly compare eight plant species, and you would not be able to do that with the old tools,” Strano says.

The researchers tested strawberry plants, spinach, arugula, lettuce, watercress, and sorrel, and found that different species appear to produce different waveforms — the distinctive shape produced by mapping the concentration of hydrogen peroxide over time. They hypothesize that each plant’s response is related to its ability to counteract the damage. Each species also appears to respond differently to different types of stress, including mechanical injury, infection, and heat or light damage.

“This waveform holds a lot of information for each species, and even more exciting is that the type of stress on a given plant is encoded in this waveform,” Strano says. “You can look at the real time response that a plant experiences in almost any new environment.”

Stress response

The near-infrared fluorescence produced by the sensors can be imaged using a small infrared camera connected to a Raspberry Pi, a $35 credit-card-sized computer similar to the computer inside a smartphone. “Very inexpensive instrumentation can be used to capture the signal,” Strano says.

Applications for this technology include screening different species of plants for their ability to resist mechanical damage, light, heat, and other forms of stress, Strano says. It could also be used to study how different species respond to pathogens, such as the bacteria that cause citrus greening and the fungus that causes coffee rust.

“One of the things I’m interested in doing is understanding why some types of plants exhibit certain immunity to these pathogens and others don’t,” he says.

Strano and his colleagues in the Disruptive and Sustainable Technology for Agricultural Precision interdisciplinary research group at the MIT-Singapore Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), MIT’s research enterprise in Singapore, are also interested in studying is how plants respond to different growing conditions in urban farms.

One problem they hope to address is shade avoidance, which is seen in many species of plants when they are grown at high density. Such plants turn on a stress response that diverts their resources into growing taller, instead of putting energy into producing crops. This lowers the overall crop yield, so agricultural researchers are interested in engineering plants so that don’t turn on that response.

“Our sensor allows us to intercept that stress signal and to understand exactly the conditions and the mechanism that are happening upstream and downstream in the plant that gives rise to the shade avoidance,” Strano says.

The research was funded by the National Research Foundation of Singapore, the Singapore Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR), and the U.S. Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship Program.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Original written by Anne Trafton. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Tedrick Thomas Salim Lew, Volodymyr B. Koman, Kevin S. Silmore, Jun Sung Seo, Pavlo Gordiichuk, Seon-Yeong Kwak, Minkyung Park, Mervin Chun-Yi Ang, Duc Thinh Khong, Michael A. Lee, Mary B. Chan-Park, Nam-Hai Chua, Michael S. Strano. Real-time detection of wound-induced H2O2 signalling waves in plants with optical nanosensors. Nature Plants, 2020; 6 (4): 404 DOI: 10.1038/s41477-020-0632-4

Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Nanosensor can alert a smartphone when plants are stressed: Carbon nanotubes embedded in leaves detect chemical signals that are produced when a plant is damaged.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 April 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200415133512.htm>.

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A “superb” southwestern Missouri cicada, Neotibicen superbus

Back in the summer of 2015, I made an early August trip to the White River Hills region of extreme southwestern Missouri. I was actually looking for one of Missouri’s more uncommon cerambycid beetles – Prionus pocularis, associated with shortleaf pine in the mixed hardwood/pine forests across the southern part of the state. I did not encounter the beetle in either my prionic acid-baited pitfall traps or at the ultraviolet lights I had set up the evening before, but while I was in the area I thought I would visit one of my favorite places in the region – Drury-Mincy Conservation Area in Taney Co. Sitting right on the border with Arkansas, the rolling hills of this area feature high-quality dolomite glades and post oak savannas. I’ve had some excellent collecting here in the past and hoped I would find something of interest this time as well. I didn’t arrive until after midnight, and since there are no hotels in the area I just slept in the car.

Neotibicen superbus

The next morning temperatures began to rise quickly, and with it so did the cacophony of cicadas getting into high gear with their droning buzz calls. As I passed underneath one particular tree I noticed the song was coming from a branch very near my head. I like cicadas, but had it been the song of a “normal” cicada like Neotibicen lyricen (lyric cicada) or N. pruinosus (scissor grinder cicada) I would have paid it no mind. It was, instead, unfamiliar and distinctive, and when I searched the branches above me I recognized the beautiful insect responsible for the call as Neotibicen superbus (superb cicada), a southwest Missouri specialty—sumptuous lime-green above and bright white pruinose beneath. I had not seen this spectacular species since the mid 1980s (most of my visits to the area have been in the spring or the fall rather than high summer), and I managed to catch it and take a quick iPhone photograph for documentation. A species this beautiful, however, deserves ‘real’ photos, so I spent the next couple of hours attempting to photograph an individual in situ with the big camera. Of course, this is much, much easier said than done, especially with this species—their bulging eyes give them exceptional vision, and they are very skittish and quick to take flight. Most of the individuals that I located were too high up in the canopy to allow a shot, and each individual that was low enough for me to approach ended up fluttering off with a screech before I could even compose a shot, much less press the shutter. Persistence paid, however, and I eventually managed to approach and photograph an unusually calm female resting – quite conveniently – at chest height on the trunk of a persimmon tree.

Sanborn-Phillips_2013_Fig-16

According to Sanborn & Phillips (2013, Figure 16 – reproduced above), Neotibicen superbus, is found in trees within grassland environments primarily in eastern Texas and Oklahoma, although records of it exist from each of the surrounding states – especially southern Missouri and northern Arkansas (Figure 16 below, Sanborn & Phillips 2013). Later the same day I would see the species abundantly again in another of the region’s dolomite glades – this one in Roaring River State Park further west in Barry Co., suggesting that dolomite glades are the preferred habitat in this part of its range. Interestingly, I think the Missouri records at least must be relatively recent, as Froeschner (1952) did not include the species in his synopsis of Missouri cicadas. This was all the information I had back in the 1980s when I first encountered the species in southwestern Missouri, its apparent unrecorded status in the state making it an even more exciting find at the time.

Neotibicen superbus

REFERENCES:

Froeschner, R. C.  1952. A synopsis of the Cicadidae of Missouri. Journal of the New York Entomological Society 60:1–14 [pdf].

Sanborn, A. F. & P. K. Phillips. 2013. Biogeography of the cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) of North America, north of Mexico. Diversity 5(2):166–239 [abstractpdf].

© Ted C. MacRae 2018

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Pest lens 1

Thursday, June 28, 2018 Notification

New planthopper species, Sogatella unidentata (Hemiptera: Delphacidae), described from Argentina
Source: Revista Brasileira de Entomologia
Event:  New Description/Identification

A recent publication describes a new planthopper species, Sogatella unidentata (Hemiptera: Delphacidae), from Argentina. Sogatella unidentata was collected from cultivated Oryza sativa (rice) and Zea mays (corn) plants. The genus Sogatella is listed as reportable in the PEST ID database (queried 6/27/18).

References:

  1. Mariani, R. and A. M. Marino de Remes Lenicov. 2018. A new species of Sogatella (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) from temperate Argentina. Revista Brasileira de Entomologia 62(1):77-81. Last accessed June 28, 2018, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0085562617301620.

If you have any questions or comments for us about this article, please e-mail us at PestLens@aphis.usda.gov or log into the PestLens web system and click on “Contact Us” to submit your feedback.

To access previous PestLens articles, please log into PestLens.

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fresh plaza logo

From PestNet

Updated fruit fly identification handbook

Welcome resource for alert Australians

As there were several fruit fly outbreaks declared across the country in 2018, the release of an updated Australian Handbook for the Identification of Fruit Flies will be welcomed by the agricultural sector. The publication will make sorting and identifying the thousands of tephritid ‘true’ fruit flies affecting a wide variety of crops grown in Australia much easier.
The handbook is accompanied by additional online information, developed via the companion website Fruit Fly Identification Australia (fruitflyidentification.org.au) and is a handy reference for all primary producers, not just those producing commercial quantities of fruit.

Dr Mark Schutze, from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries: “We’ve updated all the fruit fly images using fresh material and produced new, tailor made, molecular diagnostic tools that have emerged from our investment in next generation genomic research.”

According to farmingahead.com.au, over 60 target species of fruit flies are included in the handbook and website, shown both as individual flies and in groups of flies that look similar to each other. Importantly, the range of variation within species is also captured.
Find the Australian Handbook for the Identification of Fruit Flies

Publication date: 6/20/2018

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Note: The IAPPS Newsletter, edited by Manu Tamo, IITA, Benin, is published  in every issue of the Crop Protection journal. If you wish to submit an article please send to Manu at:

Manuele Tamò

Editor, IAPPS Newsletter

IITA-Benin

08 B.P. 0932 Tri Postal, Cotonou, Republic of Benin

E-mail: m.tamo@cgiar.org

If you would ike to receive the online version of the Crop Protection journal please go to http://www.plantprotection.org  and Join IAPPS

IAPPS newsletter logo

Number X                                                                                                                   October, 2018

USDA’S SYSTEMATIC ENTOMOLOGY LABORATORY DIGITAL KEYS

 The Systematic Entomology Laboratory (SEL), is part of the USDA’s in-house Agricultural Research Service. It develops and transfers solutions to agricultural problems of high national priority and provides information access and dissemination. Located in Beltsville, Maryland (left picture) and Washington, DC (right picture), SEL is involved in a range of entomological projects, including the development of a number of Lucid keys (www.lucidcentral.org) for insect and mite pests.

A number of these projects have involved USDA’s Identification Technology Program as well as other collaborators. Brief details of these keys are provided below.

 Scale insect keys:

  • Since scale insects are among the most commonly encountered insects at ports of entry, a key to Scale Families (http://idtools.org/id/scales/key.php?families) was built to help identify all known families of scale insects. Despite some disagreement about the status of a few of these families, this list is consistent with the hypotheses of most coccidologists.
  • A key to Mealybug and Mealybug-like Families (http://idtools.org/id/scales/key.php?key=mealybugs) was built specifically to help identify species in three closely related scale insect families previously included in the Pseudococcidae, or mealybugs (Pseudococcidae, Putoidae, and Rhizoecidae).
  • The Soft Scales key (http://idtools.org/id/scales/key.php?key=soft) was built to help identify pest species (Coccidae). Many soft scales are serious pests, particularly as invasive species. In the United States there are 42 introduced species of soft scales and 41 of them are pests.
  • A fourth key deals with Other Scales (http://idtools.org/id/scales/key.php?key=other), pest scales in various families not treated elsewhere but which have been or thought likely to be intercepted at U.S. ports-of-entry.

 A tool for identifying aphids:

  • “AphID” (http://aphid.aphidnet.org/index.php) allows users to key the 66 most polyphagous and cosmopolitan aphid species intercepted at U.S. ports of entry. In addition to a Lucid key, AphID offers users detailed descriptions of morphological features critical to identifying aphids along with annotated photographs to help illustrate each feature. This site benefits workers in aphid taxonomy and systematics worldwide, biological control workers, extension agents, and federal and state regulatory agencies.

Mite identification:

  • “Flat Mites of the World” (http://idtools.org/id/mites/flatmites/), the result of collaborative research with the University of Maryland and USDA-APHIS, provides detailed, interactive web based identification tools and a catalog for use internationally by identifiers, regulatory officials and other plant protection professionals. The citrus-tea-coffee flat mite complex of species is the most complicated and diverse group in the flat mite family as well as being the most commonly intercepted group of mites at U.S. ports-of-entry.

Since three of the most economically important species in the family are consistently confused and misidentified, the tool helps to identify 36 genera of flat mites present throughout the world, including specific diagnostics for 13 species in the red palm mite group, 14 species in the common red flat mite complex, and mite species associated with orchid plants. Since its launch in March 2012 there have been over 123,800 visits to the website with inquiries from 180 countries.

The purpose of this interactive web based identification tool, developed in collaboration with the University of Michigan and USDA-APHIS, is to help identify 117 mite species that may be found on various types of temperate and tropical bees and in their nests. The Lucid key and a searchable image gallery of over 850 mite images helps users to distinguish harmless mites from those that might harm bee colonies. This identification tool is useful to bee keepers, scientists, extension agents, and quarantine officers worldwide: since its launch in November 2016, there have been 8115 visits to the site from 133 countries.

 Fruit fly keys:

SEL has been involved in the development of a number of fruit fly identification tools, including:

 Leaf beetle tools:

Diabrotica ID (http://idtools.org/id/beetles/diabrotica/) is an identification tool for all 125 Diabrotica species known to occur in North and Central America. Diabrotica species feed on flowers, leaves and roots of a wide variety of herbaceous plants, including agricultural crops, vegetables, fruits and ornamentals, and are vectors of viral and other lethal plant diseases. A single species, D. virgifera, is estimated to cause one billion dollars damage annually. The tool provides species descriptions, detailed illustrations and keys to help identify pest and potentially invasive species from innocuous, native US species.

Dr. Gary L. Miller
Research Leader
Systematic Entomology Laboratory
USDA, Agricultural Research Service
E-mail: gary.miller@ars.usda.gov

 

8TH INTERNATIONAL AGRICULTURE CONGRESS AND

6TH INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM FOR FOOD & AGRICULTURE (IAC-ISFA 2018)

We would like to invite you to the 8th International Agriculture Congress and 6th International Symposium for Food & Agriculture (IAC-ISFA 2018) to be held 13th-15th November 2018, Auditorium Rashdan Baba, TNCPI Building, Universiti Putra Malaysia UPM), Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia.

This joint symposium under the theme “Shaping the Future through Agriculture Innovation” will be co-organized by the Faculty of Agriculture, UPM and Faculty of Agriculture, Niigata University, Japan.

By 2050, a projected global population of 9.7 billion will demand 70% more food than is consumed today. Feeding this expanded population nutritiously and sustainably will require substantial improvements in the global food chain systems that are expected to upgrade the livelihood of farmers as well as providing safe and nutritious food for consumers. Having the theme “Shaping the Future through Agriculture Innovation”, the International Agriculture Congress 2018 will explore the application of cutting-edge technologies such as internet of things (IoT), simulation technology, big data analytics (BDA), digital economy, genome editing and biome sciences in shaping the future of agriculture. These include building inclusive, sustainable, efficient and nutritious food chain systems through leadership-driven, market-based action and collaboration, informed by insights and innovation for changes in food chain systems; mobilizing leadership and expertise at the global level.

The objectives of this symposium will be:

  1. To create a forum for intellectual dialogue to discuss, deliberate and disseminate innovative ideas and findings to enhance agriculture productivity.
  2. To expose delegates to advanced and proven technologies in agriculture.
  3. To showcase discoveries, innovations, strategies and policies to enhance agricultural sustainability.

Please visit the conference website at http://conference.upm.edu.my/IAC18 for online registration and more information.

Associate Professor Dr. Mui-Yun Wong

Secretary, IAC-ISFA 2018

E-mail: muiyun@upm.edu.my

The IAPPS Newsletter is published by the International Association for the Plant Protection Sciences and distributed in Crop Protection to members and other subscribers. Crop Protection, published by Elsevier, is the Official Journal of IAPPS. 

 IAPPS Mission: to provide a global forum for the purpose of identifying, evaluating, integrating, and promoting plant protection concepts, technologies, and policies that are economically, environmentally, and socially acceptable. 

 It seeks to provide a global umbrella for the plant protection sciences to facilitate and promote the application of the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to the world’s crop and forest ecosystems.

 

Membership Information: IAPPS has four classes of membership (individual, affiliate, associate, and corporate) which are described in the IAPPS Web Site www.plantprotection.org.

 The IAPPS Newsletter welcomes news, letters, and other items of interest from individuals and organizations. Address correspondence and information to:

Manuele Tamò

Editor, IAPPS Newsletter

IITA-Benin

08 B.P. 0932 Tri Postal, Cotonou, Republic of Benin

E-mail: m.tamo@cgiar.org

 

 

 

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Plant Doctors in Vietnam go digital

Group photo

Plant clinics in Vietnam have received a major boost with the introduction of digital devices to facilitate the work of plant doctors. The use of tablets and smartphones has been proven to help plant doctors improve the quantity and quality of data generated from plant clinic operations. With improved ICTs, the captured data from plant clinics can be added swiftly to the Plantwise Online Management Systems (POMS) and managed from one device. Prior to this, plant clinic operations were dependent on a paper-based system of recording pest and disease data provided by farmers during clinics.

Earlier this month, an E-plant Clinic Pilot Workshop commenced at the Vietnam Academy of Agriculture and Sciences (VAAS), Hanoi. ICT intervention for the country is funded by the Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) and training was inaugurated in Hanoi by Dr Dao The Anh, Vice President of VAAS.

A total of 22 experienced plant doctors and 3 data managers from 4 provinces, had been nominated to launch this new approach. Plantwise distributed 15 tablets to plant doctors in 12 operational regions. These devices were pre-loaded with Plantwise apps to help plant doctors gain quick and easy access to reference materials, such as Pest Management and Decision Guides (PMDGs), fact sheets, and educational games, among other online and offline resources.

The training was facilitated by Ms. Claire Curry and Dr. Manju Thakur, from CABI’s Plantwise Knowledge Bank team. The National Coordinator for Plantwise Vietnam, Dr Tran Danh Suu, said he will be able to monitor the flow of plant clinic data and plant clinic activities using this new ICT. All the plant doctors in training were keen and excited to work on this new approach to the extension system in Vietnam.

20180314_111751

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How does communication and its technical content shape farmer responses to plant clinic advice?

P1020373

A recent study led by CABI and published in International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, explores how communication and its technical content shape farmers’ response to advice delivered at plant clinics. How willing were farmers to accept or reject the technologies recommended at plant clinic consultations? And what were the reasons? The research was carried out in Malawi, Costa Rica and Nepal, with the team visiting one plant clinic in each country.

PlantClinicMalawi
In Malawi, Violet (right) spends a long time listening, and explaining her recommendation to the farmer, Joseph.

Advice given in plant clinics in all three sites was found to be generally clear and open with plant doctors speaking in the local language in a respectful and accessible manner. This was followed up with a written ‘prescription’ which outlined a number of options for a single problem (consistent with IPM principles). This allowed farmers to choose their preferred recommendation, even if it was intended as more of a to-do list rather than a “menu” of choices. The written prescription ensures that the communication is lasting after farmers leave the clinic; not only does it enable farmers to remember the advice but they can also take the prescription to suppliers when buying pesticides. Clinics, therefore were found to have engaged in sound didactic teaching (where the required theoretical knowledge is provided); once the farmers had received their prescription, they were able to subject those recommendations to further environmental learning (e.g. experimenting with new techniques) back home.

NepalCoupon
A handwritten recommendation in Nepal which can be taken to suppliers.

 

 

 

As  extensionists became plant doctors, they had to quickly adapt to diagnosing plant health problems on dozens of crop species and provide sound advice on multiple pests and diseases. This is a huge challenge. Earlier studies indicate that plant clinics did not consistently give accurate diagnoses or recommendations. In this study, there were relatively few misdiagnoses or gross errors of communication. In addition, the plant doctors were able to contact experts to help improve their diagnoses via digital platforms such as WhatsApp or Facebook groups.

Farmer responses to the clinic advice proved too complex to be labelled dichotomous (accept/reject). Their decisions are more nuanced, based generally on the fit of the technology and how well the innovation was communicated.  The research did discover problems with the communications and recommended ways in which it could be improved, for example:

  • The Plantwise prescription forms include a number of tick boxes which facilitate data input after the consultation. However this is not of much use to the farmers and leaves only a small section for the recommendation. Not all plant doctors remember to write down the diagnosis. The forms could be improved, making them easier to read and printing them in the local language rather than in English.
  • Problems with terminology were identified, such as using units of measure (e.g. grams or millilitres) that farmers find difficult to replicate at home without the right equipment. In addition, it was difficult for them to extrapolate further information from this, such as how much they should dilute the chemicals. Measurements must always be communicated in volumes that rural people understand such as a ‘spoonful’ rather than 15ml.
FarmerCostaRica1
In Costa Rica, Don Gerardo grows ginger
plants under his blackberries to control pests

Farmers learn from other people such as plant doctors or fellow farmers, but in addition, they are also actively experimenting with the advice they receive. Experimenting and learning from others are complementary and is part of the process of developing novel techniques that work for each farmer. What is fundamental for farmers is harvesting a healthy and profitable crop. This means that while the research can ascertain whether technologies were adapted (or not) and why, it doesn’t necessarily define whether the crop problems were actually solved. More research is required to understand not only which options farmers accept from plant clinics but also the extent to which these solved farmers’ problems. As the the research surmises, ‘odds are that farmers temper outsiders’ advice for technical reasons, not because of mis-communication.’

Read Farmer responses to technical advice offered at plant clinics in Malawi, Costa Rica and Nepal in full with open access →

Read the country reports in full, including individual testimonies and photos:

 

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The Plantwise Blog

 

New coalition puts knowledge and skills into the hands of those who need it

ipm-blogbanner-rice

CABI has joined forces with the ISEAL Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Coalition in the fight to implement better, less chemical-dependent, ways for farmers to manage agricultural pests and diseases that account for around 40% of lost crops worldwide. By linking with the Plantwise Knowledge Bank, the coalition aims to share knowledge on sustainable pest management strategies, strengthen knowledge exchanges on alternative methods for pest management, as well as identifying and focusing on specific pest-disease.

Cambria Finegold, Global Director, Knowledge Management, at CABI, said, “One of the ways in which CABI works to help the 500 million smallholder farmers around the world grow more and lose less is to present them with the latest knowledge and advise on how to tackle devastating pest and diseases. “Our partnership with the ISEAL IPM Coalition is a major step forward in disseminating the very best in information and expertise into the hands of those who need it to grow healthy and sustainable crops but also protect their livelihoods.”

Other areas of cooperation as part of the new agreement includes exploring the possibilities to train Plantwise plant doctors  on sustainability standards and promote the exchange of knowledge and experiences on integrated pest management. The partnership will also explore the possibilities to implement pest-specific integrated pest management events and workshops as well as sharing examples of good practice and alternatives to pesticides.

For the IPM coalition, the technical and field experience of nine standard systems covering many countries and diverse production systems combined with Plantwise’s rich information about alternative pest control methods provide a great opportunity for technicians of farms, fields and forests to responsibly offer the best available information for least toxic chemical or non-chemical pest control methods. The dissemination of this upgraded information package to thousands of stakeholders of the IPM coalition members will not only lead to transparent information about sustainable pest management, but most importantly contribute to a more informed selection of pest control alternatives with the least environmental and human impacts.

The IPM Integrated Pest Management Coalition is composed by ISEAL Alliance members: Better Cotton InitiativeBonsucroFairtrade InternationalForest Stewardship CouncilGlobal Coffee PlatformRoundtable on Sustainable BiomaterialsGolf Environment OrganizationSustainable Agriculture Network and Rainforest Alliance. The overall long term goal of the coalition is to reduce or eliminate the use of Highly Hazardous Pesticides and to achieve a significant reduction of pesticide risks to health and the environment with effective standard and certification system’s tools.

For more information on the coalition, visit http://www.ipm-coalition.org

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Plantix 4Plantwise and the German-based company PEAT (Progressive Environmental & Agricultural Technologies) are about to conduct an 18-month pilot study to assess the benefits of PEAT’s smartphone app Plantix, which identifies plant pests, diseases and nutrient deficiencies in the field.

The app further offers advice on remedies ranging from conventional control options to preventive measures and bio-pesticide control. This includes a community feature where agricultural stakeholders can exchange their knowledge. The goal of the common project is to evaluate and further improve Plantix’ detection rate and put a stronger emphasis on control options that are less harmful but very effective such as biological treatments and Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

Scientists will be using Plantwise plant clinics run by MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in Tamil Nadu, India and their network of plant doctors to evaluate and improve the Plantix app, developed by PEAT. The app utilises the smartphone’s camera to deliver automatic image recognition-based diagnosis of pests, diseases and nutrient deficiencies affecting rice, groundnut, brinjal, chillies and banana in Tamil Nadu.

Plantix has been developed to give plant doctors as well as extension workers and farmers an improved ability to identify economically-important insect pests, diseases and nutrient deficiencies and manage them in order to safeguard crops and livelihoods. Mike Reeve, Innovations Manager at CABI, said: “With suitable training, the Plantix app is able to provide a rapid diagnosis of plant pests and diseases and, through its built-in community platform, can then offer treatment advice. Automated analysis of smartphone images has enormous potential, especially where there is lack of expert human diagnosis in the field, and we are delighted to be collaborating with PEAT to evaluate and further develop this technology in Tamil Nadu.”

plantix-2-e1520506689161.jpgThe app works by employing Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Deep Neural Networks, or DNNs. The software also has the ability to be multi-lingual and is currently available in Hindi, Telugu and English in India as well as five other languages for use in other countries. During this year, six other local Indian languages will also be launched.

Malvika Chaudhary, Asia Regional Coordinator, Plantwise, said, “Crop losses are mainly caused by plant diseases, weeds, pests and soil-nutrient deficiencies. It is important that we use technologies such as Plantix to identify and diagnose problems quickly so that remedies can be applied to prevent further losses.

Working as part of the wider Plantwise plant clinic network, and using data gained from the Plantwise Knowledge Bank, Plantix can be a valuable tool in offering effective pest management advice which may include bio-pesticides that are alternatives to the quite toxic, synthetic, pesticides currently in use.”

Looking forward, Plantix can also serve as a citizen-science tool, where extension workers, plant doctors and farmers upload information about insect pests and diseases so that their distribution can be mapped and knowledge of their management improved.

“With the right expertise from CABI and PEAT, we can therefore improve the knowledge and control of diseases and pests in space and time,” says Korbinian Hartberger, Country Manager at PEAT. He sees the potential of the collaboration of PEAT and CABI in Tamil Nadu as very beneficial on various additional levels. “The most important benefit, however, will be for the farmers, that will gain access to a sound decision support tool that helps them produce more in a more sustainable manner.”

For more on Plantix go to www.plantix.net

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  • SriLankaeplant
Plant clinics in Sri Lanka, known as the Permanent Crop Clinic Programme, continue to grow and modernize throughout the country. After successfully rolling out e-plant clinics in several provinces in Sri Lanka, the younger generation of agricultural extension workers is now feeling just as confident in solving crop health issues as their senior colleagues did in the past. Nevertheless, some older farmers do not always take the advice from younger extension workers believing that their years of experience in farming is much greater than the age of “such young extensionists”.

Plantwise Sri Lanka hosted the annual progress review and way forward meeting in December where a number of partners echoed that having an expert in the plant clinics would attract more farmers and in particular convince older farmers to attend the clinic. However, bringing together experts and plant doctors to conduct plant clinics in remote areas presents some practical and operational issues.

By embedding growing communication technologies and bringing experts into the existing plant clinics remotely, the Department of Agriculture has started a Skype service, therefore hitting two mangoes with one stone. The Skype service was launched on 15 February 2018 at Rathnapuram village in Kilinochchi District.

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A plant clinic was organized by the Kilinochchi District Coordinator and plant doctor, Mr. G. Elangeeran in a common hall of the village and it was attended by 24 farmers. Three plant doctors assisted the plant clinic and Mr. A. Vakeesan, CABI Associate, linked farmers remotely with experts on Skype and also translated whenever needed.

The remote advisory service was also organized simultaneously by Mr. S. Periyasamy, Additional Director (Communication), National Agriculture Information and Communication Centre (NAICC) of the Department of Agriculture, Kandy. The NAICC team extended their technical advice with the help of plant pathologist, Dr. Lakmini Priyantha, Additional Director, Seed Certification Services of the Department of Agriculture, Kandy.

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Farmers brought along a range of plant samples, including those with more difficult or complex problems, all of which were shown to the experts via Skype video call. To ascertain as much background information as possible, the experts asked sets of questions which the farmers were keen to answer. The majority of samples had suspected viral/bacterial infections which the experts then diagnosed. Shortly after the discussion, the plant doctors used their tablets to record all the problems, and recommendations were made based on the experts’ advice.

This advanced facility proved very useful by providing a platform to remotely connect grassroots farmers with experts who can deliver advice instantly from the Department of Agriculture office. This innovative system will attract more farmers to the clinic and discourage them from getting poor advice from other sources such as neighbours and agro input suppliers. In addition, it provides an opportunity for plant doctors to learn more on integrated crop management.

Cyber extension units of Agriculture Extension Centres could be incorporated with the Skype service to deliver better advice for farmers in the future. However, it does require very good mobile signal strength or cable-connected internet to carry out Skype video calls with little hindrance. This is the only limiting factor to having a such a service in all cyber extension units of the Agriculture Extension Centres in Sri Lanka.

The service enhances the existing plant clinics and shows how both farming and agricultural advisory services are improving and evolving in Sri Lanka.

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