Agricultural scientists, policy planners and technology experts who participated in a two-day national workshop organised by the State Planning Board here have highlighted the role of plant health management in improving crop yield.

The workshop which concluded on Friday discussed management strategies for pests and crop diseases plaguing the agriculture sector in Kerala. Organic farming, bio-control methods, pesticide safety risks, pest surveillance and soil health were deliberated. The workshop came up with a package of recommendations to promote plant-health management as an integrated approach for improving productivity.

The workshop proposed the establishment of panchayat-level plant clinics and a training centre offering short-term courses and training programmes on plant health. It stressed the need for extensive production of disease-free planting material and development of comprehensive bio-security systems covering quarantine and surveillance.

The package included a Sate-wide project on electronic pest surveillance and advisory for farmers and a network of plant health input centres to provide farmers with diagnostic kits, pheromone traps and bio-control agents.

An area-wide plant health management programme for major crops such as coconut, pepper, vegetables, banana and cardamom was one of the major proposals approved by the workshop.

Establishment of new laboratories for testing pesticide residue, plant health engineering units for development and servicing of equipment and panchayat-level farmer field schools for plant health extension were also mooted.

The package recommended the setting up of an expert advisory group on plant health management and development of a network of plant health management specialists. It also stressed the need to establish a network of laboratories for production of bio-control agents.

The workshop called for scaling up the safe-to-eat food production project and organic farming programme.

The recommendations included research activities on new generation pesticides; new and emerging pests and diseases; and early warning and forecasting systems for pests and crop diseases. It underlined the need to scale up research and development of bio-agents and indigenous and traditional knowledge.

P. Rajasekharan, Chief (Agriculture), Planning Board, said the recommendations would be submitted to the Department of Agriculture.