Sydney NSW, Australia
For your information

Dear Everyone

PestNet seems to be coming to the end of its usefulness. I write to ask you what you think.

In its heyday PestNet had between 60 and 80 emails a month asking for advice on pests and diseases and often requesting identifications.

We noticed a reduction in the number of requests about 4 years ago, and as you can see we are hardly getting any at all these days. Last month it was one, and this month none so far.

We have a new system now and had hoped that that would stimulate a bit more activity but it seems it has not. YahooGroups changed their way of operating so we were forced into developing a new platform.

We have also seen the same downturn with other email groups. The Coconut list started by Hugh Harries at about the same time as Pestnet and using Google groups also has little activity.

Why this tapering off, we don’t know. It may be that there are more places to go for information, or members like to use social media rather than email. No idea.

We have tried to retain interest by giving out information that Google Alerts deliver, but this is not the reason for PestNet, although I would like to hear from you about that.

Next week I will be meeting with LUCID people in Brisbane and also the Pacific IPM project that backstops us, to discuss what we might do.

I would be very pleased to have ideas and comments from you. Obviously, if we can’t turn things around and be useful, as we think PestNet was previously, we will call it a day.

Grateful for your comments

PestNet moderators



   1    0

Dear Dr Grahame,

I appreciated your sincere comments on the reduced activities in Pestnet.

Speaking personally, I found it easier opening my mail box and reading the post on Pestnet than on the App.

This however, does not mean that Pestnet has outlived its usefulness. The reduced number of requests doesn't mean that also. It possible like me we are not faced regularly with difficulty in ID of Pest yet.

A forum like Pestnet is still required now and in the future to assist in the proper ID and management of Pest.

Kind regards.


Dear Grahame and the Pestnet Team, i agree with Kazeem, I don't and would not use tge App but do read a lot of tge emails. I find the info and new science akerts most useful and hope they continue. I forward the most interesting alerts related to plant pathology to the editor of the ISPP Newsletter and he often uses them for future Newsletter articles. The ISPP is very appreciative of this service and i hope Pestnet continues! The drop in enquiries may reflect the increase in expertise in the Pacific Island Nations, but it may also reflect younger generations preference for social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. For example the Australasian Plant Pathology Society Facebook page has 3500 'Friends' while actual APPS membership is around 500. Another exciting option for 2020 would be to encourage the Pestnet readers to send their ways of promoting the International Year of Plant Health IYPH2020. Greg
   1    0

Hi Grahame

Sorry for the delay in replying. I think there are a number of reasons for the reduction in emails. I think the new platform did take a bit of persistence to get used to it, and some may have found it a bit difficult to use? Also, yes, nowadays there are so many sources for information on ID of pests and diseases. Many will go to Google, etc., and get a satisfactory result without turning to Pestnet. That's a pity because the Pestnet forum has some real world experts in their field. That is the main reason that Pestnet should continue. Pestnet may also be a victim of its own success. It may have reached it's key audience being the local field advisers and agronomists who have access to the comprehensive number of factsheets, and along with a bit of google, get the answer they need. I think you may have reached the English reading audience in the Pacific and SE Asia, where the number of English literate field advisers would be limited in number. BUT, what about the 1000's of farmers who could use Pestnet and the factsheets? The problem here would be language. In our NZAID projects in SE Asia, we are translating all our factsheets into the local languages, being Khmer and Vietnamese. We can then reach 1000's of farmers. So, I think the challenge is to get beyond the English literate field advisers and get to the huge audience, being farmers. They have phones and are hungry for knowledge about what is infesting their crops, being good and bad insects, etc.

Hope useful. Graham Walker

Hi Grahame, Here is my two cents. PestNet is so valuable but underutilized for various reasons (some factors are discussed already by other moderators). Like any other product or service provider, there is bound to be issues along the way. Some of the key problems include: When I was introduced to PestNet, there was still regular requests from around the world. However, Yahoo-groups interruptions in services of PestNet had somehow disrupted the popularity of PestNet; the transition to the App also affected the service. Anyway, the fact that there is now thousands of Apps out there and so many offering pest and disease diagnostic services as PestNet; even though may not be genuine, is clearly affecting PestNet, which is concerning. Question is: How is PestNet App different from other Pest Diagnostic Apps: Features? Services? User friendly? Reliability? Wow factor? Apps can be a great modern technology approach but is it the best to meet the purpose of PestNet? Innovation in service approach and delivery - is it enough? (Style of service; friendliness; people approach) – Whose the target audience and how easy to access it. With the growing internet connectivity and access to smartphones around the globe, the decline in popularity clearly reflects that something is missing. Is it lack of awareness and promotion? A need to promote dialogue (like before) – in the meantime, sending in Google Alerts is very good but rather creating a monologue situation, which may be distracting to many users (unless PestNet App would like to be known as a newsletter site). The worry of posting a sensitive issue that may interfere with country’s trade etc. seems to refrain many from sending in request or approaching other means…Not many people are aware about the incognito feature of PestNet… Collaboration/ partnership - is it enough (Bodies like PPPO/ Biosecurity Organizations etc. could also assist in the promotion of the work of PestNet.) It is ironic how a team of World Experts just awaits and always excited to assist for FREE but countries still loaded with “Unknowns” that are mostly very simple to  this PestNet group experts. Worth a feedback survey on users and nonusers to unearth any undetected reasons. I strongly believe that calling it a day is not the option to consider but rather how to regain and maintain popularity into the future.  Wishing PestNet the Best! Mani

From Dagmar Hanold, Adelaide

Grahame, I'm very sorry to hear about the decrease in usage of this great network! Seems puzzling - the one reason I can think of is that it may have become easier for people in the region to access info directly via google and travel/skype for meetings. But that's not the same as having a forum for a directly concerned parties. 

Overall, though, many of us have noticed that plant pathology is not being focussed on as much these days, most funding is only to be had if it's all about molecular breeding for crop protection instead - which is totally stupid, because our friends the pathogens are just waiting in the wings and will always be smarter. So our one comfort is that we can confidently look forward to the next major disease outbreak - when everyone will be complaining that there are not means available to do anything about it YESTERDAY.

If you really must close down pestnet, I hope we won't also lose the valuable fact sheets and photos on your website! Perhaps there could be some shift of focus on providing information and updates on pathogens specifically for the region? Such as what's the current state of xyz in the Pacific, where is it and specific issues connected with it for the region? There are things like euroblight or asiablight for specific monitoring of late blight in those regions
So pestnet could monitor the various pathogens relevant for the Pacific? The people didn't have to search far and wide to get information that's specific for the region? You could do a user survey, or we could possibly use promed, they have regional services as well so they shouldn't object to me posting a survey request, we would just have to phrase it cleverly - although, from previous experience, the response rate may be minute......

The other group that may be worth asking to help maintain the service would be CIRAD, they still have an interest in the region and were involved in our coconut project. 

I really hope you can work something out to continue one way or another!
Good luck and fingers crossed!