note23 1

Introduction 

Farmers and extension workers face a constant challenge in managing plant health problems. Biotic causes (pests and diseases) and abiotic causes such as low soil fertility lead to regular and often significant losses in crop production and quality. Diagnosis is made difficult by a diversity of causes and symptoms with multiple possible origins. Choosing the best management options needs careful consideration. 

Technical support services are often weak and extension providers struggle to reach all farmers. Plant health clinics (PHCs) are a practical way of enabling plant health specialists to work closely with extension workers in offering farmers advice on how to manage all types of plant health problems. 

Plant health clinics vary in how they operate and the services they offer. Institute-based plant clinics have laboratory facilities for identifying pests and pathogens, and some offer management advice through extension intermediaries. Most smallholder farmers are unlikely to know of such clinics or are unable to contact them directly. 

Extension-based PHCs, the main focus of this note, serve farmers directly. They are run in public places, close to where farmers live and work. Plant health clinics are a demand-led service giving advice as part of everyday extension activities. They work most effectively as part of an overall plant health system (1)
Danielsen, S. and Matsiko, F.B. 2016. Using a plant health system framework to assess plant clinic performance in Uganda. Food Security 8: 345–359.
 approach (Box 1) which seeks to increase access to sources of expertise and knowledge. 
 

BOX 1: PLANT HEALTH SYSTEM APPROACH 

Plant health clinics are part of an integrated support system for delivering plant health services to farmers. 

note 23 box1

Source: Plantwise
CABI. 2015. Plantwise strategy 2015–2020. Wallingford, UK: CABI.

In the United States, for example, plant clinics run by Land Grant Universities in 42 states (3) link county  agricultural officers to scientists with joint extension and research duties. An impressive plant health regulatory body (4) oversees surveillance efforts, while a national network of plant clinics responds quickly to pest and disease outbreaks. But this publicly funded plant health system is an exception. In India, plant clinics based in agricultural universities and farmer training centres also blend extension and research in pockets of excellence, but nationally farmer outreach is low. India also has around 3,000 agri-clinics in 25 states, commercial enterprises that provide ad hoc plant health advice, part or wholly financed through sale of inputs and other services. Here the agri-clinics supplement rather than replace public extension.