Dr Eric Boa - BSPP Elected Board Member
Photo by Jeff Bentley
I eventually got to plant pathology after completing a B.Sc. in Botany at the University of Aberdeen in 1975. An enjoyable four years at Leeds allowed me to complete my PhD on ash canker under the inspiring tutelage of Tom Preece. Then I headed East, for six years in Bangladesh and bamboo blight, courtesy of the Overseas Development Administration. From there I followed in the footsteps of quite a few others, completing two years of clove disease in Indonesia, again with ODA.
I thought I had exhausted the world€™s never-heard of diseases but more excitement was in store when I joined NRI in 1991 and began to work on woody legume diseases in Central America. Gliricidia little leaf leapt out at me and Jill Lenné on day one of our first field trip and there began a long fascination with phytoplasma diseases.
By 1995 I decided that a change was needed (and also a slightly shorter journey to work) and was kindly accepted by the then International Mycological Institute, now CAB International. I had the privilege of leading an increasingly broad range of projects in terms of location, host and theme. I had already begun to straddle the divide between natural and social sciences in 1993 and in 1997 I was fortunate to meet with Jeffery Bentley, an agricultural anthropologist. This fruitful collaboration lasts to this day, sustained by an increasing flow of projects that target extension services and farmers as much as the plant diseases themselves.
I have worked with bamboo for rural development and also wild edible fungi but my main passion and interest now is the Global Plant Clinic. We range far and wide, combining expert laboratory diagnosis in all pest groups with new extension methods (Going Public) and, perhaps the most significant innovation, mobile or community plant clinics. With schemes in Bolivia, Uganda, Bangladesh and Nicaragua we are showing how good science can better serve the everyday needs of poor farmers in developing countries. The €˜we€™ is important since the GPC is an alliance of CAB International, Rothamsted Research and the Central Science Laboratory and involves different organisations overseas who run the mobile clinics.
In a long and varied career that includes being (still) one of the founding editors of New Disease Record I am excited by the wider prospects for plant pathology and for improving access to plant health care. Therein lies the demand for more science and quality research to solve the never-ending stream of new diseases that arise and familiar ones that are neglected. Bring them on!