Citrus canker, the focus of simulation exercise to address plant health challenges in Dominica

A ‘tabletop simulation exercise’ as an emergency response to resolve plant health challenges in Dominica, was conducted as part of activities to mark the observance of International Day of Plane Health last week.

Head of Plant Protection and Quarantine Services of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nelson Laville said the challenge that was chosen for scrutiny at the meeting was Citrus Canker because it is one of the pests on the ministry’s priority list and is also present in two countries in the Caribbean region.

“We know that citrus is one of the priority crops for development and expansion in Dominica and previously we’ve been plagued with Citrus Tristeza and Citrus Greening. We cannot afford to have another pathogen or pest affecting our citrus,” Laville explained.

Laville said if this situation is not resolved, there maybe complications which can lead to restriction to trade, a declining economy and negative effects on the livelihoods of the farmers and on crop availability.

“Plant health not only refers to agricultural crops but also refers to all plants, those that are used for landscape, forest, and those [that] are grown for food,” Laville stated.

The simulation exercise involved stakeholders who Laville said are “important key players” in inactivating and executing an emergency response plan.

These participants included the Customs Department, extension services, the diagnostic capacities and partners such as The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and The Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI).

“This is really a cross-section of the grouping that is responsible for execution and emergency response plan in Dominica and of course a disease or pest can cause significant damage,” Laville noted. “The idea today is actually to get feedback on this plan from all stakeholders. As you know, an emergency response plan is always evolving and its dynamic based on conditions that exist, new situations and change of policy.”

A Plant Health Exposition also formed part of a week- long series of activities held by the Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) UNIT to raise awareness of the importance of International Plant Health Day.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has called for more investment in innovation in a field crucial for boosting food security and transforming how our food is produced, delivered and consumed.

As the world marks the International Day of Plant Health (IDPH) for the first time, the Food and Agriculture Organization of

According to FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, “On this very first International Day of Plant Health, we will reflect on plant health innovations for food security.”

He added that investments are needed in research, capacity development and outreach.

“We need to continue raising the global profile of plant health to transform agrifood systems to be more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable,” Dongyu said.

FAO has mapped out several priorities for plant health: fostering development and implementation of the international standards on phytosanitary measures to protect global plant resources while facilitating safe trade; focusing on sustainable pest management and pesticides through promotion of green and digital plant protection; and creating enabling surroundings for plant health by enhancing the health of soils, seeds and pollinators.

The organization has consistently stressed that protecting plant health is a major task and many actors have a role to play. Governments must prioritize plant health and its sustainable management in formulating policies and legislation; academia and research institutions must deliver science-based solutions; and non-governmental organizations, the private sector and resource organizations should help develop capacities and provide technical and financial support for best practices to prevent and manage plant pests and diseases.

The International Day of Plant Health was established following a decision in March 2022 by the UN General Assembly. Championed by Zambia, it was unanimously adopted in a resolution co-signed by Bolivia, Finland, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania. The Day is a key legacy of the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH), which was marked in 2020-2021. Following the first IDPH in 2022, FAO will organize celebrations for the Day every 12th of May at global, regional, national and even farm level.

FAO has welcomed it as a positive contribution to addressing global hunger, as up to 40 percent of food crops are lost to plant pests and diseases every year. Protecting plants from pests and diseases is far more cost effective than dealing with plant health emergencies. Once established, plant pests and diseases are often difficult to eradicate and should be controlled through sustainable pest and pesticides management.

The five goals of the IDPH are to: increase awareness on the importance of keeping plants healthy to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly SDG 2 (Zero Hunger); campaign to minimize the risk of spreading plant pests through trade and travel, by triggering compliance with international plant health standards; strengthen monitoring and early warning systems to protect plants and plant health; enable sustainable pest and pesticide management to keep plants healthy while protecting the environment; and promote investment in plant health innovations, research, capacity development and outreach.

FAO already works extensively to help curb the spread of quarantine and transboundary plant pests and diseases, which have increased dramatically in recent years. Globalization, trade and climate change, as well as reduced resilience in production systems due to decades of agricultural intensification, have all played a part.

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1 Comment

  1. Dr Clayton Shillingford
    May 16, 2022

    To describe the crisis and meetings and what organizations are proposing is not enough The more important question is what is the Government and its various agencies over these many years been doing to solve problems in agriculture and agroprocessing..

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