These conference reports are written by the beneficiaries of our travel fund.
Click here to read more about the fund and apply yourself
Third International Symposium on Plant Protection and Plant Health, 14-16 May 2009, Julius Kühn Institute, Berlin, Germany
The symposium was preceded by a networking meeting on the evening of the 13th May, and I also participated in these deliberations. While supporting this approach, I also emphasized the need for exchange of information amongst cooperating scientists to keep diseases and pests at bay.
On 14th May, in my role as Chairperson of the International working Group on Plant Health Clinics, I presented my contribution “Role of phytomedicine and plant health clinics on plant health security”. In my opening remarks, I noted that an ever-growing population and unprecedented losses due to plant diseases pose serious threats to food security. I asserted that managing populations is an uphill task but devastating losses can be prevented by providing stringent security to plants through Phytomedicines/pesticides recommended by plant health clinics.
The correct application of phytomedicines may enhance yield by 30%, which is otherwise lost to pests.
Therefore we need to have greater insight into the Materia medica of plant diseases, which most of us lack. Today with the availability of safer and more effective fungicides along with novel fungicides, and trusted multisite contact fungicides, many diseases can be effectively controlled. Therefore pesticides are boon and not bane. The notion regarding ill effects of phytomedicines such as environmental pollution, accumulation of residues in food, feed, soil and water, and development of resistance is in my opinion uncalled for. These ill effects are generally the result of poor knowledge, misuse and abuse of pesticides. If used with caution, following the guidelines of the Pesticides Action Network and Fungicides Resistance Action Committee and as an integral component of IPM, most of the problems can be minimized.
Pesticides are indispensable, as during epiphytotic outbreaks only pesticides can provide respite. Suitable recommendations of pesticides by plant health clinics based on comprehensive diagnosis of the problem can go a long way in managing diseases with consequent increase in yield. I therefore appealed to the delegates to gear-up the formation of well-organized plant health clinics in their countries and revamp the existing ones to make them grower-centric. I argued that if we can have clinics for human and cattle, why not for plants? Plant clinics are currently in operation in only a few countries such as the USA, Canada, UK and India, along with the Global plant clinic in certain Afro-Asian countries, and therefore more clinics need to be established in other countries too. Such clinics may provide desired diagnostic and advisory support, educate in plant health care, issue timely pest alerts, keep a vigil on bioterrorism, recommend the right phytomedicines and train users on their rational use, besides producing a fleet of trained plant doctors and plant health care workers. I appreciate the missionary zeal of the Horticulture Mission of the Government of India for lending financial support to public and private sector undertakings for creating more plant clinics across the country. I hope that other nations will follow suit. I also advocate the formation of mobile plant health clinics, which could be immensely beneficial during epiphytotic outbreaks by providing faster diagnosis and recommending suitable phytomedicines and other measures and saving the affected area from huge damage. While European delegates supported the concept, scientists from Afro-Asian countries sought necessary advice for initiating plant clinics in their countries. For greater details readers may refer to the Proceedings, “Srivastava MP: Role of Phytomedicine and Plant Health Clinic in Plant Health Security. In: Feldmann F, Alford D V, Furk C: Crop Plant Resistance to Biotic and Abiotic Factors (2009), 222-230: ISBN 978-3-941261-05-1; © Deutsche Phytomedizinische Gessellschaft, Braunschweig, Germany” After two days of a hectic meeting, the 16th May was an excursion day to NPZ, an oilseed rape breeding company, and ProPhyta, producer of biopesticides based on fungal antagonists. The excursion provided a ride through the lovely landscape of Mecklenburg- Pomerania to the north of Berlin up to the magnificent Baltic Sea coast. The huge commercial production of biopesticides was a great learning experience. I would like to thank the BSPP for the travel grant giving me an opportunity to present my views on phytomedicines and plant health clinics to an international audience.
Prof. M. P. Srivastava, FNAS, Former President, Indian Society of Plant Pathologists, Haryana Agricultural University, Gurgaon, India