Tao Zhang, Stefan Toepfer, Buyun Wang, Haomin Peng, Huifeng Luo, Xuanwu Wan, Min Wan


Countries have different approaches in providing agricultural advisory services to farmers; it is not clear which provide best services and lead to least human or environmental hazards. In China, agricultural extension workers, trained as plant doctors, run plant clinics with at least six varying degrees of linkage to agri-business. More than 20,000 farmer queries were recorded during > 3,800 plant clinic sessions between 2014 and 2015, including the diagnosis of > 125 plant health problems of > 70 common crops as well as the related pest management recommendations.  Diagnosis and recommendations appeared of high quality across all plant clinic types. Agri-business-connected plant doctors provided slightly less complete written advice with regard to integrated pest management options than did non-business plant doctors; but gave slightly more detailed advice.  Business-connected plant doctors advised slightly more highly hazardous pesticides and fewer antibiotics than non-business doctors; but differences are tiny. Overall, agri-business-connected and non-business plant doctors comparably reached farmers. Farmer reach depended more on employment type (governmental, cooperative, private) than on business-connection.  In conclusion, differences between agricultural advisory services with different levels of agri-business-connection seem small; with a tiny higher risk of more hazardous products advised by business-connected services. The level of expression of this risk may be different between countries, and care should be taken when considering including the private sector in agricultural extension tasks. Nevertheless, human or environmental hazards by pesticides in food chains seem less likely a result of advice quality to farmers than by potential other factors.


Advisory services; public and private agricultural extension; Plantwise; plant clinics; integrated pest management; agricultural policy


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