Virtual “digi-hub” forum to discuss pest and disease threat

17 June, 2015 by (comments)
Dr. Nguyen Xuan Hong, Director of PPD, during his opening remarks. Credit: Yen Le Hoang / CIAT

Dr. Nguyen Xuan Hong, Director of PPD, during his opening remarks. Credit: Yen Le Hoang / CIAT

By Yen Le Hoang

A virtual platform was launched in April to discuss crop protection relevant to Southeast Asia – a first for regional experts. With only 15 participants physically in Ban Me Thuot City, Dak Lak province in central Vietnam, the workshop titled “Cassava health in Southeast Asia: the way forward,” succeeded in bringing together 12 different institutions from the region.

Using the easy-to-use web-based program BlueJeans, a virtual discussion forum was set up facilitated by the IT team at CIAT’s headquarters in Colombia. The novel concept allowed a broad range of participants, including students, at each participating institution to participate in discussions.

The workshop, organized by the CIAT Asia team and two national partner institutions – the Vietnam Plant Protection Department (PPD) and Plant Protection Research Institute (PPRI) – through the IFAD-funded “Emerging Pests and Diseases Project (EPDP) in Southeast Asia: seeking eco-efficient solutions to overcome a threat to livelihoods and industries.”

Raising awareness about new pests and diseases in the region, mainly the devastating complex of mealybugs and the cassava witches’ broom disease, the platform also aimed to design an action plan for slowing down the spread and impact of cassava threats.

The workshop saw active participation from several celebrated entomologists from the United States of America, Australia and European universities, as well as experts from institutes in Vietnam and the region.

The virtual hub          

Participants at the virtual discussion platform.  Credit: Yen Le Hoang / CIAT

Participants at the virtual discussion platform. Credit: Yen Le Hoang / CIAT

The first day of the virtual conference allowed regional institutions to showcase the results and methods of promising research activities. The workshop was attended by multiple universities, research centers and government institutions in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and central and southern Vietnam.


Nguyen Xuan Hong, Director of PPD, opened discussions by emphasizing the importance of research in cassava pests and diseases and commented on the successful collaboration between CIAT and national institutions. This was followed by a pre-recorded welcome speech from Dindo Campilan, Director for CIAT Asia.

Kris Wyckhuys, CIAT Asia’s Cassava Entomologist and leader of EPDP gave an overview of emerging plant health problems in Southeast Asia and an introduced the region-wide Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Network. Afterwards, regional experts presented research progress on mealybug and cassava witches’ broom disease.

The third and last day of the workshop saw 19 institutions connected, with contributions from Vietnam, Thailand, China and Malaysia about future prospects and priorities for cassava IPM in Southeast Asia.

Participants agreed that further research to secure the control of cassava mealybugs complex and cassava witches’ broom disease are necessary – together with efforts to control other cassava health threats including red and green mites, termite or whitefly; and other diseases such as cassava bacterial blight, root rot disease and cassava mosaic virus.

Aside from the international experts in Ban Me Thuot, experts from distinguished institutions such as Purdue University, University of Cambridge, University of Salford Manchester and USDA-ARS all gave presentations and contributed to discussions.

Inspiration for novel outreach and improved collaboration

The audience was greatly inspired by presentations, with Erlinda Vasquez, a scientist who joined virtually from the Philippine Root crops Research and Training Center, commenting that suggestions were very valuable and would be of great help when writing proposals.

To keep the technical difficulties and failures to a minimum, since this was the biggest virtual event that CIAT has ever seen up to this point, distant scientists recorded their presentations prior to the event.

The workshop closed on the afternoon of April 9th with great satisfaction from the physical and virtual audience. Participants agreed that this novel platform was a great addition to traditional workshops, with the potential to save costs, travel and workload for participants and organizers.

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Filed Under: Inside Asia, Inside CIAT