April 2008,
Pictures will enlarge if you click on them. Blue links will bring in additional related pictures.

Establishment of the first dedicated Plant Disease Clinic in Bangladesh


Bangladesh has approximately 150 million people with about 1000 persons/sq km in a country the size of the state of Wisconsin. Sixty five percent of the population is involved in agriculture on 11.3 million farms where rice is the most important agricultural commodity. Food supplies remain inadequate for most of the population, and it is estimated that 20% of agricultural crops are lost to pests before they reach the table. Most of the arable land is under crop production, and in many cases sustains three crops per year; therefore, increases in food will come primarily from higher yielding cultivars and pest and weed management. Bangladesh claimed to have reached self sufficiency for food in 2005 but unexpected losses due to weather, pests and hoarding continues to keep sufficient food from the poor and ultra poor. As we drove through cities, long lines of women with children waited for distribution of rice at a reduced price.

High yielding varieties and hybrid seed continue to increase crop yield but there are some downsides to modern agriculture; for example careless use of agricultural chemicals. Plant Disease ClinicIn Bangladesh, only 43% of the population can read and write thus many farmers do not have access to information concerning the appropriate use of pesticides and fertilizers. In addition, there is a perception among the farmers that problems with their crops can be solved by “prescription” of pesticides. We hope to contribute to food security by helping farmers and extension personnel better control plant diseases. Plant Disease Clinics can provide accurate diagnoses so that integrated pest management practices can more effectively target the cause of disease, and environmental degradation can be decreased. Our intention is to secure funding to establish a network of Plant Disease Clinics modeled after the National Plant Disease Network recently established in the U.S. So far we have accomplished the first step; the establishment of the first dedicated Plant Disease Clinic in Bangladesh.

Clinic I have many fond memories of my experiences in Bangladesh but the establishment of a Plant Disease Clinic at Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) is perhaps the most satisfying accomplishment of my career. I was fortunate to have Dr. Bahadur Meah to collaborate with and I am thankful to the USDA for funding the project. The clinic shown here is on the third floor of the agriculture building in the Department of Plant Pathology. Note the shoes outside of the lab; shoes are to be removed before entering laboratories.


Our first Plant Clinic Workshop was held this past March with Dr. Cheryl Smith from the University of New Hampshire assisting. Pictured here, Cheryl is standing outside of the Agricultural Sciences building at BAU. We had ten workshop attendees, all with M.S. or PhD degrees in Plant Pathology. Diagnostics Most of the workshop covered diagnostic techniques but we also spent time in the classroom, and went on several field trips in search of specimens. Some times we walked to off-campus plots but farther forays required rickshaws which we picked up where the students hang out for tea at Jabbar Mol. Following the week-long workshop we had the inauguration of the clinic which was attended by about 60 people.

Attendees Workshop

The workshop ran from 9:00 am to 6:00 but we managed to find time to take in local scenery , visit with people, and eat some of the best food in the world. Relaxing at the guest house on the Old Bramahputra River was a treat after our hectic schedule.

Tea House FieldJabbar-Mol

Mr. Jabbar Tea of course, is the national drink and we managed to drink plenty. For tea break we would go to Jabbar Mol and this picture shows Mr. Jabbar in the left background.

Students like to take boat rides across the river and have tea at one of several teahouses. A visit to the local market on campus is always interesting.

Vegetables DiscussionHere you pick up everything you need for meals; vegetables, fish and meat. You will also run in to students and faculty members which often lead to some discussion about the various produce. Here Cheryl is talking with crop botanist Solomon Fakir.

Until next time, see you later.