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.
BOX 1: PLANT HEALTH SYSTEM APPROACH
Plant health clinics are part of an integrated support system for delivering plant health services to farmers.
In the United States, for example, plant clinics run by Land Grant Universities in 42 states (3) (4)