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The (Plant) Doctor is In

Trevor Nichols (left), Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Agricultural Bioscience CABI-Plantwise and Dr. Catherine Woteki (right), Undersecretary, Research Education and Economics signed a Memorandum of Understanding to make the United States Department of Agriculture’s research and genetic information accessible to “plant doctors” working to prevent disease and pests in developing countries at the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, February 7, 2012.

Trevor Nichols (left), Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Agricultural Bioscience CABI-Plantwise and Dr. Catherine Woteki (right), Undersecretary, Research Education and Economics signed a Memorandum of Understanding to make the United States Department of Agriculture’s research and genetic information accessible to “plant doctors” working to prevent disease and pests in developing countries at the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, February 7, 2012.

As USDA celebrates 150 years of serving American agriculture and rural communities, it is important to remember the enormous contribution of the Cooperative Extension Service, a three-way partnership between USDA and our state and county partners that forms a nationwide network of expertise.  These experts work with Americans on issues that relate to a wide range of topics including: agriculture, natural resource management, nutrition, youth development, community empowerment, household and family budgeting, and disaster assistance, among others.

On the agriculture side, the Cooperative Extension System has been our best kept secret in enabling the transformation of our agricultural system through science.  Extension professionals at our Land Grant universities and in field offices around the country have been and continue to be instrumental in agricultural and rural development successes.  These experts translate and adapt research results for use by our farmers and ranchers in the field, while working closely with these producers to feed their insights and ideas back into the research process, ensuring that the research being done meets their needs.

Unfortunately, not all countries have such a robust and decentralized network of public research and extension professionals, helping people understand and incorporate science-based information, methods, and tools into their own operations.  To support food, water, energy, health, and environmental security globally, there is a great opportunity for us to help strengthen the extension of scientific knowledge around the world by helping other nations strengthen their own extension systems in the ways that make the most sense for them – ways that frequently combine both public and private actors.

This is why I’m pleased to announce a recent partnership between USDA and CABI’s Plantwise Initiative.  In collaboration with local organizations, Plantwise has formed a network of 182 “plant clinics” in 19 countries around the world.  Through the USDA-Plantwise partnership, USDA research and information will be electronically transferred to the Plantwise global knowledge bank so that the “plant doctors” at these clinics will have easier access to in order to help farmers in far off places diagnose and control the plant pests and diseases affecting their fields.

Bangladesh, for example, currently has 19 Plantwise clinics operating through three local partners.  USDA information and research will be fed into Plantwise’s knowledge bank, which “plant doctors” use at clinics in rural areas. The clinics are set up like medical clinics: farmers bring in diseased plants to work with the doctors in diagnosing the problem and finding ways to manage it.

While nearly two thirds of Bangladeshis work in agriculture, and 80 percent of the country relies on agriculture for their subsistence, 10 to 25 percent of their expected production is lost to pests annually.  Programs like Plantwise can play an important role in empowering Bangladeshi farmers with the right knowledge to address these pests in an integrated and effective way, thereby reversing the loss crops, and increasing their food production.

These local extension clinics help close the gap between researchers and practitioners, much the way that Extension professionals do in the United States.  At USDA, we will continue to bring our experience with research, extension, and education systems to assist those that need our assistance – to further our mutual goals of food security, health, and sustainability. Beyond our work with CABI, we are exploring a number of other ways to ensure that the American system of agricultural science – including the powerful tool of extension – is both strengthened and improved by our engagement with countries around the world.

2 Responses to “The (Plant) Doctor is In”

  1. Susan Owens says:

    Good morning,

    I was wondering what funding level is attached to this MOU.

    Many thanks!
    Susan

  2. Cathrina@island-families says:

    I have been receiving mail from your Department regarding special projects and resources. I am school-home-community parent volunteer.

    In a recent grant proposal from Island Girl Power on Guam, they shared some ideas and have mentioned USDA as a partnership. In our meetings we have several youth volunteers that have continued to remain committed to help the organizations island growth of membership as well as outreach component that is linked to several public schools here on Guam. At Island Girl Power, we are hoping that the community and neighborhood of residents it’s surrounding areas adopt a green space one day. We have yet to start this program. We certainly need strong leaders. It sounds like it can benefit not only the organization but our families who decide to adopt one. Ms. Carlottta Leon Guerrero, our founder of Guam’s Island Girl Power and and the Ayuda Foundation, our Dededo Village Mayor, Melissa Savares and Juanita V. Blaz, Director. are the driven force behind the project for the residence in our area. I salute these women for doing such a wonderful job for the many years I have known them. We hope that the Project will continue to grow and earn more funding support for this community wide island effort.

    Cathrina

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