Farmers get agricultural advice on plant pest & disease management

A Plant Health Clinic (PHC) aims to support farmers struggling to control pest and disease affecting their plants/crops was held in Munda, Western Province last month 18 September.

Plant Doctors from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL), Research Department in Honiara and Extension officers at Munda office facilitated the PHC.

The purpose of the PHC is to ensure MAL officers known as ‘Plant Doctors’ come together and attend to farmers who have experienced pest and disease problems on their plants/crops.

“The Plant Doctors talk with farmers, discuss the problems, and then give correct advises or information to farmers on how to control or manage the problems on their crops.  It is similar to human clinics, but this one is for plants.

“MAL plant doctors have been running plant clinics for farmers in Guadalcanal, Malaita, Isabel, Makira, and Western since 2012. For Munda, this was the second plant clinic,” Chief Research Officer Maria Gharuka from the MAL Research Department said.

Ms. Gharuka said the half-day event provided an opportunity for officers to talk face to face with farmers, and enabled them to make visit to gardens and give correct advices.

Farmers get agricultural advice on plant pest & disease management
Plant Doctors assisting local women farmers with agricultural advices during the Plant Health Clinic.

“More than twenty people came around to the plant clinic tent to see and learn from the factsheets that were displayed with nine (9) farmers participated at the clinic by bringing samples of sick plants. 

“The nine (9) farmers were females and they presented 11 samples of affected crops.

“Most farmers came from in and around Munda, including neighbouring Rendova Island and surrounding Vonvona & Roviana Lagoon,” Ms. Gharuka said.

She stated that the key problems that were presented were flea beetle on slippery cabbage leaves, soft rot and scales on papaya fruits, nutrient deficiency on capsicum and tomato, sun scald on cucumber fruit, Papuana beetle on taro corm,  spots by fruit flies on guava and cucumber fruits, fungus on cassava roots and sweet potato weevil on sweet potato tubers.

The Plant Doctors that facilitating the PHC include Lorima Bela, Junena Talasasa and Kelvin Lamusasa from MAL Extension office, Munda and Freda Mudu and Maria Gharuka from MAL Research office in Honiara.

Ms. Gharuka then thanked farmers who attended the PHC, especially those who brought samples of sick crops/plants to show to the plant doctors as well as members of the public in Munda who took their time to visit the PHC booth for information.

Plant Health Clinic (PHC) is a meeting place where local agricultural advisory officers, called Plant Doctors, come together to support farmers struggling with plant pests and diseases by providing diagnoses and management advices.

Australian government funded the Plant Health Clinic programme through its Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) project which aims at strengthening Integrated Crop Management (ICM) research in the Pacific Islands in support of sustainable intensification of high-value crop production.

Collaborating countries under the ACIAR-ICM project includes Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.