New PlantwisePlus Toolkit helps farmer advisory service providers give better advice

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A new PlantwisePlus Toolkit has been launched to help identifying tried and trusted digital tools that are designed to assist crop production by supporting decision-making.

The website is aimed at agricultural advisory service providers and brings together a suite of digital tools to, ultimately, support smallholder farmers implementing sustainable crop production practices.

These include public and private extension workers and agro-input dealers who support farmers to increase their yields and income.

Globally, up to 40% of crop yields are lost to crop pests and diseases. Furthermore, a range of Invasive Alien Species (IAS) cost Africa’s agriculture an estimated USD $65.58 billion a year.

PlantwisePlus Toolkit tools

A range of subjects are covered by the decision support tools. These include diagnostics of crop pests and diseases, reducing pesticide risks and sustainable pest management recommendations.

Specifically, the tools are the PlantwisePlus Knowledge Bank, Factsheet Library App, Crop Sprayer App, Fertilizer Optimizer Tool and the CABI BioProtection Portal.

The PlantwisePlus Toolkit also includes two digital learning courses from the CABI Academy. These are the Crop Pest Diagnosis Course and the Crop Pest Management Course.

Meeting users’ needs

Before the PlantwisePlus Toolkit was launched, CABI conducted research to see how it could meet the needs of users. This involved holding user requirement workshops in Zambia and Pakistan. A survey was also used to gather information from partners in other key focus countries.

It is hoped that the PlantwisePlus Toolkit will address a number of key challenges which the research identified. For instance, the low adoption of new technologies by farmers. This is in part due to lack of knowledge or know how of the advisors and farmers.

Another challenge identified was a lack of up-to-date knowledge resources. There was also a need for more training, particularly in the identification of pests and diseases.

Smarter tools and processes

Dr Ulrich Kuhlmann, Executive Director, Global Operations at CABI, said, “PlantwisePlus envisions a world where smallholder farmers have increased incomes and grow safer and higher quality food through sustainable crop production.

“However, the vast majority of smallholder farmers have poor access to public extension agent and rural women have even less access than men.

“PlantwisePlus are using digital farm advisory to overcome the recognized limitations of extension systems, which include limited reach. By using smarter tools and processes, public and private-sector extension can deliver the technology and information transfer to farmers for surveillance and mitigation of pest and invasive species outbreaks.

“There are hundreds of digital tools available to farmer advisors, varying in quality. CABI designed the PlantwisePlus Toolkit so that farmer advisors could find the best quality tools available, all in one place.”

The PlantwisePlus Toolkit is part of the PlantwisePlus programme which helps countries predict, prevent and prepare themselves for plant health threats. In this way, farmers are able to reduce their crop losses and produce quality food required in the face of a changing climate.

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