A recent workshop on pest and disease modeling for crops was conducted for young scientists from various parts of India, by the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, and ICRISAT. The program included training on use of novel methods, data science and machine learning tools to predict pest and disease outbreaks for their timely management.

Dr Prasanna Kumar, Coordinator of the training program, said, “Simulation models have been proven to be the most effective mathematical and statistical tools that can help to design management strategies for pests and diseases in plants.”

Dr Mamta Sharma, Theme Leader, Integrated Crop Management, ICRISAT, and Head of the Center of Excellence in Climate Change Research for Plant Protection, said, “Capacity-building activities for young researchers are among our major objectives. This way we equip them with the latest disease modeling tools to keep us all prepared for the future.” She said that the research at the Center of Excellence contributed strategic knowledge for the national program of climate change advisories for agriculture.

“Today the challenge is how early we can predict an incidence of pest or disease in real time. Any delay can result in significant damage for the farmer,” said Prof Rajendra Prasad, Vice Chancellor, UAS, Bangalore. He appreciated the fact that the trainees were from various parts of the country – Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Punjab etc.

Dr Arvind Kumar, Deputy Director General – Research, ICRISAT, recommended the training course to the young attendees, saying that it was a uniquely meaningful training course that combined different streams of research – from climate change, to plant diseases and then to disease/outbreak predictions based on modeling tools. He urged the participants to interact with each other, exchange information and think of practical applications of the learning.

Dr Akhilesh Gupta, Advisor and Head of Climate Change at the Department of Science and Technology, said, “We need to have academic institutions, that have rich human resources, and research institutions, that have strong R&D infrastructure, work together. That’s the way we can create competencies in these areas across the length and breadth of the country.”

“Significant crop losses occur due to pests and diseases worldwide,” said Dr Nagaraj, Head, Department of Plant Pathology, UAS, Bangalore. “Therefore, such training is essential to prepare the next generation of scientists to deal with future pest attacks and disease outbreaks which may only increase with a changing climate.”

As the training program had a good blend of attendees from several regions, it was a great opportunity for all to learn and also to exchange information. Participants were thankful to the training program for equipping them with next-generation modelling tools for pest and disease management.

This training program was supported by Climate Change Program, Department of Science and Technology, Govt of India; CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals; ICAR-CAAST-NGT; the World Bank; and ICRISAT.

For more on our work on pests and diseases, click here

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