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Interesting Facts about e-Plant Clinics and Their Benefits; Know Helpline Numbers to Get Their Services

Aiswarya R Nair
Aiswarya R Nair

Have you heard of Plant Clinics?

Plant Clinics are a meeting place where local agricultural advisory officers, known as plant doctors, help farmers struggling with plant pests and diseases. They provide diagnoses and management advice for any problem and any crop.

In India, Plant Clinics began in 2012, and was an initiative of M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), in partnership with the UK based non-profit, Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI).

Farmers need to regularly attend online plant clinic sessions or webinars to keep track of the pests reported by other farmers and learn about preventive measures.

The sessions aim to solve the problem faced by the plant and soil miseries judiciously, share best practices, bring down the costs of cultivation, inform farmers about market rates and help them plan their next crops in the villages of Tamil Nadu, Assam, Odisha, and Puducherry.

A village would be chosen as a nodal centre for the plant clinic, and farmers from six neighbouring villages would attend. Since 2012, thirty such clinics covering 175 hamlets or villages have been operational. These sessions soon shifted to online since the lockdown. Before the nationwide lockdown started, 2,141 plant clinic sessions were held, engaging 34,217 farmers who brought in 34,876 crop samples.

Farmers used to bring the affected crop samples to the clinics to recognise the problem and get technological solutions. Every farmer is provided with a prescription, detailing the case history along with guidance. The Plant Clinic treats the crop samples, with the help of the detailed factsheets in the local language of the farmers.

The COVID-19 lockdown forced plant clinics to evolve, as several farmers were calling in with queries. Meanwhile, a young farmer suggested they go online, and e-plant clinics began.

Plant Clinic started conducting online sessions so that farmers can describe their problems without any difficulty. The affected plant is shown through a video call so as to ascertain the nature and progress of the disease. The plant doctors then provide the remedy through the chat option and also send out the same by SMS.

Dr P Senthil Kumar one of the Plant Doctors and the coordinator of the Plant Clinic Project has undergone training by the MSSRF and CABI on emerging diseases, control methods, green control methods, etc.

During the lockdown, the plant doctors were given virtual updates. As of now, 32 such plant doctors are on the job in this initiative, managing 548 farmers from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, and 140 farmers from Assam and Odisha.

As per the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, up to 25 per cent of annual production loss in India in 2015 was due to disease and pests. Timely diagnosis of pest, disease, and nutritional depletion hindering crop growth is necessary for minimising production losses, along with careful usage of pesticides.

According to reports, if 7-10 per cent of the crops are affected, the clinic recommends bio-agents like laboratory pungent, or potent indigenous botanical Prosopishe extracts of local paper cent trees such as neem, adathoda, nochi (vitex), pungent, erukku (calotropis) and karuvel (Prosopis).

Helplines for availing plant clinic services are:

7299935543 and 9942211044 for Tamil Nadu and Puducherry
9078999668 and 9937263687 for Odisha
6003146232 and 6026035966 for Assam

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