Crop protection information
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CTA. 1989. Crop protection information. Spore 22. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/45098
New technologies can revolutionize delivery systems, but where to begin?
Those who have had even a passing acquaintance with the field of crop protection cannot fail to have been overwhelmed by the amount of information that exists on the subject. There is, for example, the basic information about the diagnostic characters and the biology of the virus, bacterium, fungus, weed, nematode or whatever. To this must be added information about the host, be it crop or noncrop, plant-cultural information, information about the basis of any resistance or tolerance of all the cultivars and so on. Then there is information about the pest's natural predators; about its occurrence world-wide, and about changes occurring in its distribution pattern; and there is information about the economic significance of the damage it causes. There is an equally vast amount of data regarding control measures: quarantine legislation, the methods of application of pesticides, their cost, effectiveness, availabilitv and safety. The task of collecting, processing, storing and distributing this vast amount of information is necessarily immense and complex. Is it being done efficiently? By the standards of today's most advanced information technologies, it is not. Modern technology has reached the stage where all the written text so far produced by mankind can be fitted on a single laser disc with an area of 2 square metres. And, while in 1978 it cost US$20 per page to store information electronically, it now costs only US$0.016 per page; and the present cost will fall by 50 per cent over the next two years. Colour slides, as well as text, can also be stored electronically: 108,000 can be fitted on a 1 2-inch analog video disc, and a machine which can print these images now costs only US$2.500. Although there are endless possibilities for utilizing these technologies in the service of plant protection, the priorities are not at all clear. In order to examine these possibilities further, CAB International, in association with FAO, organized an International Crop Protection Information Workshop at Wallingford, UK, from April 9-14 . The Workshop was attended by 76 delegates from 32 countries. CTA supported this initiative in several ways: by serving on the Organizing Committee, by supporting a preparatory study on existing electronic databases and by supporting the attendance of seven ACP nationals at the Workshop itself. The Workshop's objectives were to review present systems of making crop protection information available to users ( with an emphasis on the needs of developing countries); to identify deficiencies in present methods of disseminating crop protection information, and opportunities arising from new communication techniques; and, finally, to develop proposals to ensure that information reaches users in a timely and efficient manner It was evident that few information technologists have a broad experience of plant pathology in developing countries, and that relatively few plant pathologists are aware of the latest developments in computer technology. Both groups of specialists have much to learn from each other, though effective integration of their skills and needs will require a great deal more opportunity, resources and encouragement. The Workshop highlighted a wide range of key needs: to establish the level of relevance of information (site-specific to international); to establish its quality and to agree upon the appropriate level of organization of information; to determine appropriate levels of technology, which must be considered in relation to the cost of new proposals: and appropriate sources of funding must be considered, as must their timing. Even if we have been only marginally involved with these newtechnologies, it is easy to appreciate why some participants were concerned with the importance of compatibility and standardization of information systems. Among the more difficult areas discussed were the need to establish the relevance and utility of the 'grey literature'; to define 'economic importance' as precisely as possible, and to keep in mind linguistic considerations, especially with regard to quarantine procedures. At least one aspect received the consensus of all delegates: the need for international co-operation. Among delegates' priorities were the compilation of directories and inventories; the establishment of networks which would, for example, help to make grey literature available; the development of identification services, reference collections and training opportunities; and the need for newthesauri to avoid confusion in terminology. An international species occurrence system was proposed, as was the creation of Pesticide Information Resource Centres. Delegates also saw a need to standardize, validate and update pest distribution maps and to improve field survey and detection systems so as to obtain more field data and outbreak reports. The selection and distribution of information were seen as essential activities, and some delegates favoured a broadening of the literature covered by abstracting services. Integrated Pest Management should continue to be promoted, through support to a new or existing international entity. Finally, attention must be given to securing long-term funding forsuch activities. The Workshop was in broad agreement on three general recommendations: firstly that information systems and training should be actively pursued at national and international levels; secondly that positive action was needed to increase the awareness of policy makers to the strategic importance of crop protection information as an instrument in national planning and protection of natural resources, human health and the environment. Finally, donor agencies were urged to recognize the importance of ensuring that projects are not isolated from world information needs and that they include provision for full advantage to be taken of all appropriate information sources.