At the beginning of 2010, the international science-based development organization CABI announced the launch of its Plantwise initiative, a major program to create a global plant health information resource and surveillance system, aimed at benefiting scientists, policymakers, and farmers. Central to the Plantwise concept is a 'knowledge bank' delivering a single point of access for all plant pest and disease information. The plan is to bring together all the best information about plant pests and diseases, aggregate it, structure it, update it, and make it searchable so that scientists can recognize complex patterns of information across multiple sites. CABI itself has a number of pieces of the jigsaw already in place, in the form of its existing data and publishing capability, including CAB Abstracts and the Crop Protection Compendium (CPC), together with its network of plant health clinics. The plant health clinics advise farmers in developing countries on pests and diseases in the way a health center does for humans. They are run by local technical people, trained by CABI, who visit rural markets every week. Farmers drop by with samples of diseased plants, to get the problem identified and to learn what to do about it. CABI is actively expanding the number of clinics to 400 in 40 countries by 2015. As well as providing immediate benefits to local farmers, the clinics are becoming a most effective field-based early warning system, helping to monitor plant pests and diseases and indicate where more systematic surveillance programmes are required. The clinics provide regular new disease reports. Indeed, since the first clinic was created in 2002, a total of 47 new diseases have been confirmed. With more than ten times the current number of clinics in operation, we will expect much greater reporting of emerging problems which can then be digitized and laid on a map. Over time, we will be able to track the distribution and incidence of each pest or disease while plant scientists, armed with current and reliable reports, can get a grip on what really is going on and recommend timely mitigation strategies. Through Plantwise, CABI will also be able to present linked references to articles about specific pests, the crops they affect, the damage they cause, and suggested treatment. The current prototype allows users to search by crop, by pest, by country, or even by soil type. The knowledge bank will also contain images for identification of pests, description of their relationship with the plant host, and contact details of local services. Plantwise is a collaborative initiative. As well as donors, CABI is seeking both institutions and individuals to provide shared content and to help review the knowledge bank as it develops. (Contact Phil Abrahams [] to find out more about Plantwise.)

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