Agriculture officers have spent the last two days learning how to properly diagnose damages on plants as part of their capacity building during the ‘Plant Protection Training and Plant Health Clinic’ in Levuka, Ovalau.
The officers who are based in the Eastern Division spent time closely observing the various damages on plants due to either abiotic or environmental factors or biotic reasons such as disease, bacterial growth or genetic irregularities.
The officers undertook practical sessions to thoroughly understand the different pests and diseases that attacked plants. In addition, the training also taught officers how to manage and address these issues when farmers brought it to their attention.
Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary, Mr. Ritesh Dass said the Ministry regularly conducted trainings such as these to better equip field officers to assist farmers.
“The Plant Protection and Plant Health Clinic Training is one such example the Ministry regularly conducts for its officers who are based in the different stations to refresh and build their capacity.
“Our officers who include those out on the maritime islands provide a number of services and this training will allow them to do two things; one, it will assist them become ‘Plant Doctors’; and two, instead of sending our research officers from Koronivia Research Station to these stations to investigate plant damages, these current trainees will be able to provide a diagnosis after studying the signs and symptoms affecting plants or crops,” he said.In addition, Mr. Dass says, a group of Fiji Plant Doctors are utilizing online tools and apps so that officers do not have to leave their stations instead utilize the technology available to send pictures and have members share their expert advice and provide diagnosis almost immediately.
“So, our officers are saving time and resources, and are utilizing the technological advancements available today to ensure a more efficient and effective service delivery to our farmers.”
Pacific Pests, Pathogens and Weeds app (version nine updated last week) is another online platform that Plant Doctors in the region can refer to. This app contains full factsheets including management practices. The app was developed by PestNet in collaboration with Pacific countries and supported from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).