PLANTWISE (PW) is a new innovative platform for promoting crop health and sustainable plant protection services to prevent losses to pests and unnecessary pesticide usage. In May 2012, the ADB-IRRI Planthopper Project initiated a CABI-IRRI-Rice Department Workshop on Rice Technology and Delivery and Services Development that developed a proposal to incorporate Thailand into PW global program. The proposal entitled “Implementing Plantwise for the establishment of improved Rice Plant Health Systems in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) with Thailand as a Pilot” was recently approved for support by SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation).
The current plant protection system in Thailand is organized like fire brigade services designed to react/respond to pest outbreaks rather than to prevent them from occurring (being proactive). The system has also encouraged the establishment of a huge number of uncertified pesticide retailers and sub-retailers marketing chemical products like FMCGs (fast moving consumer goods). Their ubiquitous presence at the village levels has by default made them also the local unqualified “plant doctors” but they lack knowledge and they provide farmers with poor advice. Since BPH outbreaks have been shown to be insecticide induced, Thai farmers have been suffering crop failures from outbreaks for the 10 consecutive seasons due to excessive and non-rational use of pesticides. Additionally, the shortage of extension staff makes it impossible for extension to function in effective and direct advisory roles. As such, current plant protection extension systems need to modernize and take on a governance role to ensure that delivery/recommendation of quality information, responsible advice and appropriate products reach the farmers.
The global Plantwise program was recently launched by CABI, an intergovernmental, not-for-profit science-based development organization with partnership with IRRI and 70 other international and national organizations. Plantwise underpins and sustains global efforts to remove constraints to agricultural productivity to contribute to food security through the principle of ‘lose less, feed more’. PW supports national extension systems in developing countries to provide smallholder farmers with better access to the advice and information needed to help them optimize their crop production and improve their livelihoods by losing less of what they grow due to plant health problems. This is being achieved through the establishment and operation of plant clinic networks, supported by a global knowledge bank, a central repository within PW for plant health diagnosis and management information. In Thailand, the new PW offers also a fresh opportunity to support and underpin the necessary strategic framework for more effective and successful management of a specific crop and its key pests such as planthoppers. The PW program aims to provide a knowledge-rich facilitating framework for change.
In the present proposal, CABI, in partnership with IRRI, seeks to conduct a crop-specific pilot test case with the Ministry of Agriculture (Rice Department, Department of Agriculture and Department of Agriculture Extension) and related stakeholders of the rice industry in Thailand. The proposed study will work through existing organisations (both public and private sectors) and plant health initiatives in Thailand in the short term and in the other GMS countries in the long term. The project aims to complement existing efforts to improve extension and support to rice farmers by providing training of plant doctors and the support of both mobile and station-based plant clinics. In addition, Thai staffs will be trained to support further scaling out of the initiative.
The project, with the support of CABI and IRRI staff, will develop accreditation schemes for rice plant doctors, supervise and monitor performance, facilitate links to research and regulation systems thereby strengthening delivery of advisory services in the long term through stronger national plant health systems. The implementation of PW for rice production will be launched from a platform with 3 main components, viz. information database, diagnostics and accreditation. CABI’s Plantwise and IRRI’s knowledge banks will be important resources for the certified rice plant doctors and pesticide retailers to give the best diagnosis and make the most appropriate “prescriptions”. This modern system will look rather like the well-developed and well-regulated one in the medical profession.
In the ASEAN region there is acute shortage of taxonomists to identify arthropods. The new PW for rice will establish a remote microscopy diagnostic (RMD) network using the internet for real time connectivity to international taxonomic experts. The IRRI arthropod taxonomy lab will serve as a hub for both linkages with national programs and with advance labs and museums for arthropod identifications.