UK – Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) has launched a worldwide programme – PlantwisePlus -to help support low and lower-middle income countries to predict, prepare themselves for and prevent plant health threats in a changing climate reducing crop losses and empowering farmers to increase income, food security and food safety by producing more and higher quality food.

CABI is an international not-for-profit organization that improves people’s lives by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment. It has worked in Africa for many years, but in 1995 it formally established a regional centre in Nairobi.

PlantwisePlus will build on CABI’s Plantwise and Action on Invasives programmes, which have already helped millions of farmers in over 30 countries diagnose and treat pest threats and diminish crop losses by reinforcing national plant health systems.

It will test new interventions in 6-7 countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas for the first 3-years of the programme. These include enhanced digital advisory tools to boost climate resilient agriculture and greater availability of more sustainable biological plant protection products.

“Public extension plays a significant role in agriculture, but the numbers of staff are insufficient to reach all smallholder farmers who often have to turn to agro-input dealers for plant health advice. However, these often lack the capacity to provide accurate diagnoses and sound crop health advice – without an overreliance on chemical pesticide controls, where the hazards are not always realized by farmers, as part of an Integrated Pest Management Plan,” said Dr Ulrich Kuhlmann, PlantwisePlus Programme Executive.

PlantwisePlus will enhance the on-going elements of Plantwise and Action on Invasives but will also introduce brand-new elements to address gaps and opportunities identified through lessons learnt. This will help smallholder farmers have amplified incomes and grow safer and higher quality food through sustainable approaches to crop production.

The programme will seek to accelerate the availability of nature-positive and low-risk plant protection products to reduce dependence on high-risk farm inputs. The new programme will also create and transform employment to support economic development and contribute to consumer demand for safer, higher quality and locally produced food to drive the uptake of safer production practices.

Dr Kuhlmann added that PlantwisePlus will bridge the gap where at the national and regional level there is no consistent or coordinated mechanism for detection of and response to pest outbreaks, or for providing the technical support needed to identify plant health problems and deliver effective solutions.

PlantwisePlus will draw upon a range of existing CABI open access products and projects. These include the CABI BioProtection Portal – a free tool to enhance the awareness and uptake of biocontrol and biopesticide products by growers and advisors – and the Plantwise Knowledge Bank and factsheet app.