CABI has launched PestSmart Diagnostics in Europe and North America, the first in a series of new e-learning courses based on training developed for the award-winning Plantwise agricultural programme aimed at farmers in developing countries. PestSmart promises to benefit the way businesses in the food supply chain manage plant health problems to grow more and better produce.

The course is unique in two ways: it is the first plant health e-learning product of its kind on the market, and is an example of a proven innovation from the aid sector being developed into a commercial product. CABI is a not-for-profit organisation, so the profits made from PestSmart will be reinvested into the Plantwise programme – making it more sustainable and ultimately helping farmers both in developed and developing countries.

PestSmart is a practical e-learning course focusing on the skills and methodologies required for field-based diagnosis of pests and diseases. The course offers agricultural professionals the hands-on skills needed for field-based diagnosis of plant pests, focusing on a methodology for diagnosis. The knowledge learnt in the course gives farmers and agronomists the skills needed to identify new and emerging threats to their crops, reducing risks to the food supply chain and improving productivity.

Plantwise is a CABI-led aid programme that helps farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America lose less of what they grow to plant health problems by establishing and supporting plant clinics, where farmers receive practical agricultural advice. The training provided through the programme has tangible improvements on agricultural productivity, with independent studies showing 13% crop yield increases in Kenya, as well as reductions in pesticide usage.

In Sri Lanka, Plantwise expertise helped stop the banana skipper pest which could have caused losses of up to USD 20 million to the country’s banana industry. Better management practices and reduced pesticide usage has also given market access to farmers in Ghana and Vietnam who were previously suffering from export bans to the EU and United States. Plantwise has connected sesame farmers in Nicaragua to The Body Shop, with their oil now used in its body butter.

PestSmart builds on the successes of this aid programme, enabling plant health professionals in Europe and North America to go out into the field and diagnose and manage major plant pests for the commercial sector.

CABI’s Chief Commercial Officer, Carol McNamara, says: “We’re delighted to launch PestSmart. So often we hear about commercial innovation trickling down into developing countries. Here, we’ve taken a highly successful international development programme and adapted it for the commercial sector. This ‘reverse innovation’ approach shows how agricultural knowledge in developing countries can be applied and distributed to developed markets.”

PestSmart’s eLearning element is designed to be completed on a desktop PC but is viewable on Android and Apple mobile devices. There are three elements to the PestSmart package: an eLearning course, a field guide and a simulator app with 3D renders of diseased crops.

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