Author : Dr Rajkumar, Ms Kavitha and Dr R Rengalakshmi
Upscaling the Plant Clinic initiative under the Resilience Project to build farmer’s capacity
With support from the Royal Norwegian Embassy, the Climate Resilience project is being implemented in Assam and Odisha states since October 2018. By increasing resilience and bolstering the production and value chains for the agriproduct markets, the project intends to increase the agricultural productivity, adaptive capacity, and livelihoods of smallholders to climate and economic changes. Through the Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK) and stakeholders, efforts are being made to scale up the proven Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) Technologies demonstrated in the project area to other vulnerable districts. In Assam, upscaling of the CSA in eight KVKs through the Virtual Village Knowledge Centres (VVKC) is done. Partners and farmers recognized that the Plant Clinic is an invaluable intervention for addressing farmers’ plant health issues through real-time diagnosis and advisories communicated through digital tools and in-person. Hence, the Plant clinic programme is incorporated as one of the critical upscaling initiatives under the VVKC activities.
To promote plant clinic interventions in the eight KVKs, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation and Assam Agricultural University(AAU), Jorhat jointly organised a four-day training. The residential training titled “Becoming a Plant Doctor” was held from the 14th to the 17th of June 2022 at the Regional Agricultural Research Station. The training programme was attended by twenty-five scientists from KVKs and AAU Research Stations. Dr Ashok Bhattacharyya, Director of Research, AAU, delivered the inaugural address. Dr R. Rajkumar, Principal Scientist, explained the upscaling initiatives and the importance of organising the Plant doctor’s training. Dr Vinod Pandit, Center for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), designed and conducted the training program along with Dr Shalik Ram Adhikari, Senior Plant Protection Officer, Nepal.
A vital goal of the training program is to enhance the knowledge management and capacity-building of the KVKs scientists and farmers in addressing plant health issues, especially in the context of increasing climate risks. Through the Plant Doctor course, KVK experts built the skills necessary to diagnose plant health problems using microscopes and other diagnostic tools. This enables them to provide farmer-centric, eco-friendly, affordable, and locally accessible advisories and operations. As part of their training, trainees were exposed to various crop pests and diseases (fungi, bacteria, viruses, insects, mites, etc.) through presentations, classroom demonstrations, group exercises, and practical sessions to enrich their learning.
In the training, the learners had a hands-on experience with a live plant clinic experience. During the feedback session, the participants expressed that the programme helped them become familiar with easy identification and early diagnosis of plant diseases. They also gained knowledge about the plant pest online management database system and how to classify infections as biotic, abiotic, or nutritional deficiencies. The extension officers added that implementing such interventions would help them to strengthen their trust with farmers. The training program was concluded with a closing ceremony and the distribution of certificates.
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.