It’s here: the new Plantwise Knowledge Bank!

Image 1 blog (2)
Plantwise Knowledge Bank homepage (© CABI)

We are pleased to announce the release of the newly designed and dynamic Plantwise Knowledge Bank. The new website is now mobile responsive and has a cleaner, more user-friendly homepage. Our improved design allows for easier navigation and its responsive layout has made it suitable for desktop, mobiles and tablets.

There is now an increased visibility of the available resources as well as the positive impact that the Plantwise programme has had on rural farmers within its member countries.

With the growing number of smartphone users; predicted to reach an estimated 2.87 billion worldwide in 2020, it is important to provide accessibility of diagnostic tools on various sized device screens. The updated visuals, coupled with an improved user experience should help even more users better access the Knowledge Bank and further spread the positive impact that Plantwise has within the agricultural and international development sectors.


Our improved pest identification tool will not only be accessible on the go but it’s simpler and user-friendly design means it will be reachable to all users.  With the roll out of e-plant clinics, many plant doctors now have access to tablets, this mobile responsive site will encourage the plant doctors’ access to the Plantwise Knowledge Bank and its’ diagnostic tools, improving the overall service to farmers.


Instead of country landing pages, users will find country resource pages; the sleek design makes it easier to navigate and find all the necessary information: crop variety lists, pesticide lists, diagnostic field guides and plant health websites relevant to that country.

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Plantwise Knowledge Bank Country Resources page (© CABI)

We’ve also added a link to the Horizon Scanning Tool, developed under CABI’s Action on Invasives programme, which helps you identify and categorize species that might enter your country. Using data from CABI Compendia datasheets, the tool evaluates whether there is a potential threat of an invasive species, based on countries with similar climates, trade connections or major transport links to the source country.

You’ll still be able to use some of our ‘old favourites’, like identify a pest, the Plantwise blog, the booklet builder and continue to receive pest alerts if you’ve subscribed to them. If not, sign up today to receive monthly e-mail alerts of up-to-date crop pest and disease records in your specified country or region.

Click here to explore the new site and experience all of the new tools and resources, as well as learn about what Plantwise has achieved.

Your feedback is important to us as we work to develop a website that is valuable to you. If you have any comments or queries, please contact us at plantwise@cabi.org.

Greece logo 2023


The Executive Committee of the IAPPS Governing Board has selected the bid of the Hellenic Society of Phytiatry (HSP) to host the XX IPPC in Athens, Greece. The congress is under the aegis of the Agricultural University of Athens and is going to take place at the Megaron Convention Center in Athens 10-15 June, 2023.

Greece, as a Mediterranean and South European country, covers a vast diversity of agricultural temperate, subtropical and even tropical crops with highly specialized researchers on plant protection sciences working in Universities, Research Centers and in the Private Sector. Thus, Greece is one of the few countries where scientists can meet a very broad diversity of crops and plant protection problems.

It is certain that participants of the XX IPPC Athens 2023, besides an excellent scientific program, will be thrilled by its long-standing history, the ancient and modern city of Athens, the birth place of democracy, the fantastic environment, and ultimately enjoy Greek tradition, special Mediterranean food and legendary hospitality. The organizers are looking forward to the successful organization and realization of the congress at all stages till the final day of the congress.

Eris Tjamos

At the same time, we have the pleasure to announce that Professor Eleftherios (Eris) Tjamos, President of the Hellenic Society of Phytiatry, has been appointed to serve on the IAPPS Governing Board in his role as IPPC Host Country Representative. Prof. Tjamos has obtained his BSc and MSc in Agronomy with major in Plant Pathology, Agricultural University of Athens, Greece in 1967, and his PhD in Plant Pathology- Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of London, U.K., in 1974. During his rich career, he has been Research Plant Pathologist, Benaki Phytopathological Institute, Kiphissia, Athens, Greece (1970-1987), Visiting Scientist, Host Pathogen Interactions, University of Lexington, Kentucky, USA (1981-1982), and Visiting Professor, Biological Control of soil-borne pathogens, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, MD, USA (1993). At the Department of Plant Pathology, Agricultural University of Athens, Greece, he has been subsequently Assistant Professor (1987), Associate Professor (1991), Professor of Plant Pathology (1994- 2010), and Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology (2010 to date). Within the same institution, he has served as the Director of the Section of Plant Protection and Environment (2003-2005), and Dean of the Faculty of Crop Science (2005-2009).

He has directly supervised 55 MSc and 7 PhD students. His research interests spawn from phytoalexins and induced resistance, to biological control of plant diseases, verticillium wilt with emphasis on olives, soil solarization and methyl bromide alternatives, and mycotoxicogenic fungi in grapes and wine. Eris has also substantially contributed to extension, by publishing several layman journal articles in extension plant protection journals to inform extension plant pathologists and farmers about various aspects related to the management of soilborne pathogens, while at the same time numerous leaflets were produced to promote soil solarization and soil fumigation to help farmers move out of the methyl bromide use

Please join me in congratulating Eris and his team for the successful bid, and for his appointment as IAPPS Governing Board member.

Prof. E. A. “Short” Heinrichs

Secretary General, IAPPS

E-mail: eheinrichs2@unl.edu




 The IPPAD is an award of recognition established by the IAPPS Governing Board to honor individuals, teams or organizations that have made unusual and innovative scientific contributions that promote plant protection and/or made meritorious and productive contributions to the organization, administration and /or management of plant protection programs or otherwise have served with distinction in advancing the cause of plant protection sciences.

The awards will be presented at an awards session at the XIX IPPC in Hyderabad, 10-14 November. Nominees shall be present at the IPPC to receive the award. The names of awardees, with proper laudatory language and a description of their contributions shall be included in the Congress program and shall be presented to the Congress participants at the awards session.

Individuals and teams presented with the IPPAD at the past six International Plant Protection Congresses are listed at: https://www.plantprotection.org/About/AwardsofDistinction.aspx

Nominations for the IPPAD are due July 1, 2019, and should be submitted to:

Prof. E. A. “Short” Heinrichs

Secretary General, IAPPS

E-mail: eheinrichs2@unl.edu

*This announcement also appears in the IAPPS Newsletter in the Crop Protection Journal, and on the IAPPS site Home page <www.plantprotection.org> and a list of of previous awardees can be found at https://www.plantprotection.org/Newsletter/PastissuesoftheIAPPSNewsletter.aspx.




tomatoes zara shortt ethiopia

How can tomato farming be improved in Kenya? Study finds producers face a ‘myriad of constraints’


In a recently published paper in Scientific African, CABI’s Willis Ochilo led on a study which captured a better understanding of tomato producers in Kenya, describing in detail the production practices in order to identify challenges and opportunities for increasing tomato productivity for the country’s smallholder communities.

Tomato is a good source of vitamins A and C, and lycopene making it an important crop in terms of food and nutritional security for families in Kenya, and is in fact eaten in nearly all households across the country.

Although tomato is “among the promising commodities in horticultural production in Kenya” and over the years production has intensified, farmers are not seeing increased yields. According to the research this is due to “a myriad of constraints” such as climate change and soil health, as well as plant pests (e.g. Tuta absoluta) and diseases (fungal, bacterial, viral). However, other factors such as farmers’ overreliance on pesticides and lack of access to improved seed also play a part.

The researchers used data from Plantwise plant clinics from 121 locations in 14 counties across Kenya over a four-year period. From each location, farmers visiting their local plant clinic were interviewed. Over the duration of the study, almost forty thousand farmers visited the clinics, and of these 4,907 were tomato farmers.

From this sample, the study found that farmers were assigning less and less land area to tomato cultivation which the authors suggest could be due to farmers adopting high-yielding varieties and other modern technologies for increased yields that use less land. However, conversely it could also be down to farmers perpetually achieving disappointing yields and/or profits.

In addition, the data showed that tomato farming is dominated by male farmers. Although women in Kenya play a crucial role in agriculture particularly in terms of household food and nutritional security, overall, they largely under-resourced. To include more women in tomato production, the study calls for a change in policy to “increase women’s physical and human capital” by safeguarding their rights to land, better access to agricultural extension, better education for girls in rural communities, and supporting the training of more women in agricultural sciences.

Participation by young farmers was also very low and the authors posit that this could be down to issues of land. Land remains a huge challenge for today’s youth who most often do not have land of their own to farm, meaning they cannot get started with income to access good quality inputs for better yields. This only exacerbates the perception among young people that agriculture is not rewarding and pushes most of this generation into city jobs instead.

All of these aspects intersect and underscore the need to: increase the participation of women and youth in tomato farming; explore initiatives to help farmers access improved seed; and encourage farmers to consider alternatives to an overreliance in the use of synthetic pesticides.

Only by capturing this complex picture of tomato production can we begin to find opportunities to improve the slow growth of this important crop in Kenya.

Read the paper in full (open access):

Ochilo, W., Nyamasyo, G., Kilalo, D., Otieno, W., Otipa, M., Chege, F., Karanja, T. and Lingeera, E. (2019). Characteristics and production constraints of smallholder tomato production in Kenya.

Helpful resources

Science News

Science Visualized

Peacock spiders’ superblack spots reflect just 0.5 percent of light

New images reveal microscopic structures that manipulate light to create the dark patches

7:05pm, May 14, 2019
peacock spider

BLACK OUT  Microscopic bumps on male Maratus speciosus peacock spiders (shown) make some of their black patches appear even darker, which may help the arachnids attract a mate.

Male peacock spiders know how to put on a show for potential mates, with dancing and a bit of optical trickery.

Microscopic bumps on the arachnids’ exoskeletons make velvety black areas look darker than a typical black by manipulating light. This architecture reflects less than 0.5 percent of light, researchers report May 15 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The ultradark spots, found near vivid colors on the spiders’ abdomens, create an “optical illusion that the colors are so bright … they’re practically glowing,” says Harvard University evolutionary biologist Dakota McCoy.

Male peacock spiders swing and shake their brilliantly colored abdomens during elaborate mating displays. Pigments produce the red and yellow hues, but blues and purples come from light interacting with hairlike scales (SN: 09/17/16, p. 32).

Black areas on the spiders contain pigment, too. But scanning electron microscopy also revealed a landscape of tiny bumps in superblack patches on Maratus speciosus and M. karrie peacock spiders. In contrast, all-black, closely related Cylistella spiders have a smooth texture.

Bumps galore

Scanning electron microscope images show bumps, which manipulate incoming light, in superblack patches on the abdomens of two species of peacock spiders. While Maratus speciosus (left) has only bumps, M. karrie (middle) also sports spiky scales that limit reflection by scattering and absorbing light. A Cylistella spider (right) has a smoother surface, which results in an ordinary black appearance.

Kay Xia; D. McCoy et al/Proceedings of the Royal Society B 2019

Using simulations, McCoy and colleagues showed that the bumps make dark spots appear even darker in several ways. Curved surfaces bounce light around, so less is reflected, and diffract light in a way that it evades the field of view of an onlooking female. And the bumps are microlenses — angling entering light so that it takes a longer path and spends more time interacting with light-absorbing black melanin pigment than it would if the surface was flat.

The spiders’ luxe looks resemble that of birds of paradise, which also use tiny structures to create ultrablack feathers (SN: 2/3/18, p. 32). But the animals evolved their abilities separately, the researchers say. And the phenomenon may not be so rare. There is evidence for superblack shades in snakes, a type of beetle and a variety of other birds, McCoy says.


D. McCoy et alStructurally assisted super black in colourful peacock spiders. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Published online May 15, 2019. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2019.0589.

Further Reading

A. Yeager. Why some birds of paradise have ultrablack feathers. Science News. Vol. 193, February 3, 2018, p. 32.

H. Thompson. Tiny structures give a peacock spider its radiant rump. Science News. Vol. 190, September 17, 2016, p. 32.


How bees can be a friend to smallholders

By Karoline Kingston

Bee with pollen on its legs drinking nectar from a flower

In an unprecedented study, honey bees have been found to be the world’s most important single species pollinator in natural ecosystems. Working alongside wild bees, they are also said to be responsible for every one in three bites of food. For the smallholder farmer, befriending bees – both honey and wild – could mean more efficient, high quality pollination of crops, as well as pollinating wild plants for cattle and other livestock to graze on. The sale of honey could also provide a vital additional source of income. But the bees need human help in return; the global bee population is in decline due to the use of harmful pesticides, climate change and habitat loss. Finding a productive partnership between these small creatures and smallholders could benefit both sides.

How bees aid agriculture

Bees are said to be responsible for pollinating around 35% of global agricultural land. While smallholders work to prevent crop losses, bees can positively encourage crop pollination and productivity. They can also help with early detection of diseases such as fireblight in orchards. Research in Ghana and Benin has found that the presence of bees can even make nut trees more productive. Of course, in addition, their pollination of wild plants and animal food sources also helps cattle and livestock to thrive. Despite their tiny size, these creatures can make a large impact.

How smallholders can help in return

Farmers can repay the kindness shown by bees by monitoring the presence of other predators such as hornets, providing water for them to drink and allowing wild flowers to flourish where possible, as food for the bees. African bees have been found to be resistant to pathogens which have affected European bees, which makes them resilient and resourceful contributors. However, in order to preserve future bee numbers, farmers must seek to avoid the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on their smallholdings. An independent study of Plantwise found that farmers using plant clinics were less likely to use pesticides with a huge 97% decrease observed in the value of pesticides used per acre.

Contributing to the community

When bees and farmers work in partnership, the whole community benefits. In parts of Kenya, beehives have been valuable in improving the relationship between landowners and elephants, and the friendship between farmers and bees is also saving forests in Zimbabwe. If smallholders are encouraged to keep honey bees, there is an obvious income opportunity from selling their honey; for some, this can make a huge difference to the quality of life they can provide for their own families and farm workers.

Bees are small but mighty contributors to the world of agriculture. For smallholder farmers, bees are an inexpensive way to add real value to their land, by improving pollination, detecting disease and increasing fruitfulness. They can also make a significant contribution to the wider community. While the work continues to reduce losses, bees can help farmers to make real progress.

About the author

Karoline Kingston worked as a garden landscaper for many years before leaving to pursue her passion as a writer. She now spends more time at home with her family, in the garden or out hiking in the countryside.

20 May is World Bee Day, raising awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development.

Further resources:

Golden Rice

genetic literacy project

Golden Rice, part 1: The story of a GMO crop that could save millions of lives a year

| May 15, 2019

Research was initiated in the early 1990s which led in 2000 to the publication of the technology behind what came to be known as Golden Rice. From the outset, the intention was to create a source of vitamin A in the endosperm of rice, as an additional intervention for vitamin A deficiency. Philanthropy and the public sector funded the research. In 2001, the inventors, Professor Ingo Potrykus and Dr. (now Professor) Peter Beyer, assigned their patents to Syngenta for commercial exploitation as part of a transaction which obliged the company to assist the inventors’ humanitarian and altruistic objectives.

At the same time, the nutritional technology was donated by its inventors for use in developing countries. The inventors licensed a network of Asian government-owned rice research institutes to deliver their objectives. Product development was initiated through the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the network. The whole network, including IRRI, worked to a common set of goals defined in licences each institution signed with the inventors. The terms included that there would be no charge for the nutritional technology and it would only be introduced to publicly owned rice varieties.

This article is part one of a four-part series on golden rice based on a book chapter Golden Rice: To Combat Vitamin A Deficiency for Public Health. Part Two: To Combat Vitamin A Deficiency for Public Health; Part Three: Are biofortified crops safe for human consumption?; Part Four: Do biofortified crops make economic sense?

Improvements were made to the technology by Syngenta scientists. In 2005 and 2006, pursuant to Syngenta’s legal obligations entered into with the inventors in 2001, Syngenta provided selected transformation events of the improvements to the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board. The Humanitarian Board, via Syngenta and IRRI, made these new versions available to the Golden Rice licensee network. In 2004 Syngenta ceased its commercial interest in Golden Rice. From 2004 development was again only funded by philanthropy and the public sector; the national budgets of Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam; as well as the US National Institutes of Health together with the Rockefeller and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations and USAID. Golden Rice is a not-for-profit project: no individual, nor organization involved with its development, has any financial interest in the outcome.

greenpeace activity do not approve golden rice x x

To date the Golden Rice project has principally engaged plant scientists. Activist opposition to Golden Rice has been led principally by non-scientists, who have been very successful in developing a narrative about Golden Rice and GMO crops which serves the activist’s purpose but is fundamentally inaccurate. Further background to the development of Golden Rice, including the political dimensions, is detailed elsewhere.

A few years ago, at Tufts University, USA, I gave a presentation about Golden Rice. The symposium was organized by the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy whose strategic aims today include ‘Reduce nutrition-related health inequities’ and ‘Promote food systems that increase agricultural sustainability while improving human health.’ I was dismayed to learn that the anti-GMO and anti-Golden Rice activists’ narrative was widely accepted by the participants—all of whom were studying or working in nutrition and well aware of nutritional inequities in public health.

Without adoption, that is, regular growth and consumption of Golden Rice by populations in countries where rice is the staple and VAD is problematic, Golden Rice cannot deliver any public health and welfare benefits. Adoption requires cooperative working by different specialists, including medical, nutritional and public health specialists. This chapter is designed to answer anticipated questions from such specialists, to facilitate adoption of Golden Rice as an additional intervention for vitamin A deficiency.

Rice, diet and deficiency

Rice is the most important staple crop: more than half of the global population eats it every day. In some countries, 70–80% of an individual’s calorie intake is from consumption of rice.

For storage without becoming rancid, the husk and the aleurone layer of rice have to be removed. What remains after polishing–white rice, the endosperm–contains small amounts of fat and is an excellent source of carbohydrate for energy but contains no micronutrients. Yet humans require both macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats) and micronutrients (minerals and vitamins) for a healthy life. Like all plants, rice obtains its minerals from the soil. Vitamins are synthesized by plants and/or animals, including humans.


Human health is best served by a ‘balanced diet’ that is varied, containing both macronutrients and micronutrients, including animal products and, as sources of provitamin A, coloured fruits and vegetables. Micronutrient sources are insufficiently represented in the diets of many people in countries where rice is the staple. The reasons often include poverty: such dietary components are expensive compared to the cost of rice. In countries where rice is the staple, the average consumption is 75.20 kg/capita/year. Of those countries where micronutrient deficiencies are common, consumption increases to 150 kg/capita/year. In such populations micronutrient deficiencies, like poverty itself, often occur as part of an intergenerational cycle.

For the past 15 years, 800 million people—more than 10% of the global population—are hungry every day. These chronically hungry individuals lack sufficient calories in their daily diet; indeed over the past 3 years, the trend is upward. Even more alarming is that 2 billion people—almost 25% of global population—are micronutrient deficient; they suffer from ‘hidden hunger,’ with important associated morbidity and mortality and related economic impact. Figure 1 shows that over the 20-year period 1990–2010, the rate of reduction of chronic hunger (that is, macronutrient—carbohydrate, proteins and fats—dietary insufficiency) has been faster than the rate of reduction for hidden hunger (that is, dietary insufficiency of minerals and vitamins).


Dr. Matin Qaim, member of the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board and one of the authors of the paper from which Figure 1 is extracted, has commented: ‘In the future the hidden hunger [e.g. micronutrient deficiency] burden will be larger, [than chronic hunger – principally carbohydrate deficiency] unless targeted efforts to reduce micronutrient malnutrition are implemented at larger scale.’

Interventions for micronutrient deficiencies include supplementation (with pills, syrups or capsules containing micronutrients) and fortification (adding micronutrients to processed food). Both interventions require some level of manufacturing and/or distribution infrastructure.

With the creation of Golden Rice in 1999—the first purposefully created biofortified crop—a new term was required: ‘biofortification.’ The word was first used in 2002 and first defined in 2004: “biofortification” is a word coined to refer to increasing the bioavailable micronutrient content of food crops through genetic selection via plant breeding.’ In 2003 ‘Harvest Plus’ a not-for-profit public-sector programme started to biofortify staple crops by conventional plant breeding, to benefit the poor, and progress with biofortification through conventional plant breeding was rewarded by the World Food Prize in 2016.


The intention of biofortification is to deliver public health benefits to populations which are micronutrient deficient, through consumption of the staple crop including the extra nutrition within the edible part of the crop. In this way minimal cultural change is required to food—production, processing or consumption—systems. For the most marginal members of the population, this biofortification approach overcomes the inherent access, cost and non-sustainability difficulties of supplementation and fortification. In 2017 the World Bank recommended that biofortified staple crops should be the norm rather than the exception: ‘conventionally’ bred biofortified crops and also genetically engineered crops—gmo crops—were both recommended with Golden Rice specifically mentioned.

For Golden Rice to deliver benefits, it has to be grown and consumed within target countries where VAD remains problematic despite significant progress with other interventions, notably vitamin A capsules, which have undoubtedly saved millions of lives and will save more, since they were introduced (accompanied by controversy) in the 1990s. And success or failure with Golden Rice will directly affect future adoption also of high zinc, high iron and high folate rice and their impact on public health for hundreds of millions of people. All these traits, introduced to the endosperm of rice, necessitated using GMO techniques, and all cost no more than white rice to the grower or consumer. Eventually, as the end point of product development, it is planned to include all these nutritional traits together in multi-micronutrient-Golden Rice.

Adoption of Golden Rice requires public health professionals as well as agricultural and other professionals, to work together in each country. Any skepticism created by the past 18 years of negative activist influence will prevent success, if not positively addressed by all involved. For billions of people, the stakes could not be higher.

Adrian Dubock holds a PhD from Reading University in reproductive physiology and ecology. He is the executive secretary of the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board

The GLP featured this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. The viewpoint is the author’s own. The GLP’s goal is to stimulate constructive discourse on challenging science issues.