Identifying and diagnosing plant pests and diseases in the Northern Division has been made easier following the upskilling of Agriculture officers in Vanua Levu.

The four-day Plant Health Clinic (PHC) training, currently being held at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Seaqaqa Research Station, will assist 19 Agriculture officers in the North identify and resolve basic pest and diseases through field diagnosis and symptom description to suggest suitable remedial measures to farmers.

While addressing training participants, Senior Agriculture Officer Cakaudrove, IIisoni Banuve said the training would help them recognize the issue and react accordingly to assist affected farmers.

“The reason behind this training being conducted here was mainly due to the fact that many farmers are not familiar with the cause of the most common problem of their crop, but problems cannot be dealt properly unless the cause is known.

“Some plant problems are caused by pest and disease, but others may be caused by soil nutrient deficiencies, drought, waterlogging, weed competition, fertilizer burn, herbicide damage, salt spray or root damage from gardening, or a combination of any of these, and that is where Plant protection comes in, as a remedy for all of these causes,” he said.

“All this confusion means that it is difficult for farmers to make an informed decision about the way to control pest and diseases, and with this training, it will help Extension officers to identify and to have an immediate idea about the plant disease while on farms and to react and advise farmers accordingly, there and then, as they may have time to cure the plant,” added Mr. Banuve.

He also highlighted that the Plant Health Clinic addressed an important issue faced by Extension officers, stating; “It represents a bottom-up approach to improve national plant health services as they offer at least a partial solution to the challenge of lack of resources in formal extension services.

As part of the PHC, farmers will have an opportunity on Friday 25th January to bring in their sick samples to be checked by the Plant doctors at the Seaqaqa market from 10am-12 pm.

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