Staff of PHCs should have a broad knowledge of agronomy, the common crops, and pests and diseases that occur locally. The basic requirements are post-secondary educational qualifications and the ability to use a computer or other devices to write reports and enter data, coupled with good interpersonal skills for interviewing farmers, and a systematic approach to solving problems. Plant doctor training provided by Plantwise (Box 2) gives pragmatic guidance on how to diagnose problems and give advice.
The term ‘plant doctor’ is widely used by those who run PHCs. Plant doctors do not as yet need to be registered or accredited. Plant health services lack the professional roles found in human and animal health, such as doctor, nurse, and vet, and further discussion is needed of formal qualifications and regular assessment of competencies. These discussions should recognize that plant doctors provide basic healthcare, similarly to a rural health clinic. They recognise the unknown, and seek information and advice from elsewhere.
If all basic equipment needs to be purchased, the minimum cost would be around US$300. Tables and chairs may already be available or borrowed on the day of the PHC. Running costs include transport to the venue, daily allowances for food, airtime for mobile phones, and internet connections. Assuming two persons per clinic, approximate costs would be around US$50 per session. Honoraria paid to ‘hire’ crop protection experts to assist at PHCs are difficult to sustain. PHCs usually provide services free of charge, and introducing fees is unlikely to generate enough funds to offset the potential deterrent effect. Institute-based plant clinics are more likely to charge for laboratory diagnoses, which can be costly to undertake.