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More “Ideal Plant Clinics” required in the Anthropocene

Darryl Herron: Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute, University of Pretoria

<div>Globally, plant clinics have played a significant role in limiting crop loss due to pests and pathogens. Even though new plant clinics are being established regularly, there remains a great paucity in capacity to tackle one of the greatest challenges of the Anthropocene: to provide more food and fibre for an escalating global human population on a shrinking land resource base. Plant clinics operate at many different levels but most are equipped to address some of the more immediate issues facing small-scale farmers who wish to know the cause of a problem on their crops. While these clinics are important, there is a need for more advanced clinics that not only answer such questions, but that also play a role in driving/informing research. The “Ideal Plant Clinic” (IPC) should be one that is set up to provide a wide variety of diagnostic services; staffed with well-trained professionals; have suitable infrastructure; draw scientific support from the research community and engage with the stakeholder community through extension. Our experience in establishing a clinic attached to a university, in a research institute, linked to industry, and focused on tree health, provides a model for what an IPC might be. The diagnostic clinic of the Tree Protection Co-operative Programme (TPCP) provides examples of how high-quality research together with pest and disease diagnostics have contributed to improving yields of the South African Forestry Industry over a 20 year period.</div>