Tue, Apr 10, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Council to set up demonstration plant doctor services

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

The Council of Agriculture will set up demonstration plant doctor services at four universities, with one of them — National Chung Hsing University (NCHU) — set to open the nation’s first “plant teaching hospital” today, council officials said at a forum yesterday.

Plant doctors, who have to pass national exams and obtain certification, will be responsible for plant health protection and quarantine, according to the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine’s draft act on the qualification of plant doctors.

The draft act was first proposed last year, but was rejected by the Executive Yuan, which advised the council to further communicate with other government agencies that might be affected by the act, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said.

“We desperately need experts like plant doctors to help us” regulate plant diseases and boost production efficiency, Yong Lin Organic Farm chief executive officer Pai Pei-yu (白佩玉) said, adding that the company last year spent about NT$9 million (US$308,124) to purchase fertilizers and materials for its 53-hectare farm.

The future market for plant doctors is promising, with companies willing to pay thousands of dollars to have them analyze plant-based food products, National Taiwan University (NTU) department of entomology professor Hsiao Hsu-feng (蕭旭峰) said.

While some people are worried that crop prices would rise with the introduction of plant doctors, they should think whether they prefer cheap, but toxic food, or costlier, but healthy food, he said.

To promote the benefits of plant doctors, the council is to set up demonstration plant doctors services at four universities — NCHU, NTU, National Chiayi University and National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Chen said, adding that NCHU is to open its plant teaching hospital today.

The NCHU faculty will provide diagnosis and treatment services to people with sick plants, bureau Director-General Feng Hai-tung (馮海東) said by telephone after the forum.

About 90 students with plant treatment expertise graduate from the four schools each year, he added.

Asked if there might be a shortage of professionals, Feng said the council also welcomes students from other departments, such as gardening or agronomy, to take the exam, but it needs to discuss exam rules with the Ministry of Examination.

While the institutionalization of plant doctors was favorably received by forum attendees, some said the scope of their profession — such as whether trees and garden plants should be included — needs to be clarified.

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