Diagnostic support to plantwise plant doctors in Kenya
Published: November, 2016
Effective extension services are essential to provide farmers with skills and knowledge to manage pests and diseases. These services are provided by government agencies, non-governmental organisations, community based organisations as well as various actors in the private sector. Plantwise aims to help farmers lose less of their crops to pests and diseases, through among other strategies, the establishment of networks of plant clinics. Farmers visit these clinics and explain their plant health problems to plant doctors, who are mostly extension agents trained to provide diagnosis and give recommendations for pest management. However, plant doctors need diagnostic support in order to provide accurate diagnosis especially when faced with new pests. This study was carried out in Kenya to establish the diagnostic support available to plant doctors in the country and provide suggestions for improvement. A total of 133 plant doctors were interviewed and plant clinic data in the Plantwise online management system (POMS) database reviewed to find out how often plant doctors indicated the intention to send samples to a diagnostic lab as a follow up action. Plant doctors interviewed were aware of diagnostic services, and 65% indicated an intention to send samples for diagnosis. Thirty per cent of those interviewed had sent samples to a diagnostic centre, and feedback generally took several days with feedback not received in 27% of the cases, suggesting a need to improve coordination between research and extension. Plant doctors using tablet computers had better access to diagnostic support from their peers through their social online network.