Integrated pest management (IPM), also known as integrated pest control, is an integral part of the agricultural practices in the tropical areas, for one, this is one of the most pest-affected areas in the world and grows the most of the world’s foodgrains. Any upset in agriculture can not only affect incomes and livelihoods of farmers but poses a serious threat on the food security situation for the burgeoning population as well. This is true for both India and the world at large. Sustainable crop production is crucial which can be achieved through good farming practices and protecting the crops from pests. However, constant adverse publicity against the crop protecting products have made them the rogues – if activists are to be believed, these chemicals may harm human even though they protect and save the crops.
That is only one part of the story, the other part involves educating and training farmers about judicious and effective use of technology and inputs for cost effectiveness. The ignorance of farmers in adopting anything that does not follow their traditional understanding of farming is hurting both of them and the agriculture industry as a whole to an extent. Farmers’ awareness need to be emphasised for the right kind of product – insecticide, fungicide, herbicide or plant growth regulators and the right time and application method. This is a bigger challenge for judicious use of agrochemicals and laying the foundation of integrated pest management in India.
Ground-level, area-specific interventions
While their concern for the crops as they struggle against the volatile market prices is valid, their lack of awareness and understanding is making a bigger loss than the prices. Hence, Insecticides (India) Limited (IIL) has been continuously working to educate the farmers for the judicious use of agrochemical products under their CSR initiative as well. Such model farm becomes an example for the other farmers in the area to adopt the same practice saving on their input cost. Acknowledging that indiscriminate use of agrochemicals may cause adverse effect and will also increase the input cost of the farmers. IIL Foundation, the CSR wing of IIL collaborated with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) to roll out an integrated pest management (IPM)-based farming joint research project. The project was initiated in three villages near Hapur in Uttar Pradesh where an extensive education and training programme for farmers from sowing to harvest was initiated.
The programme was run by scientists and experts from ICAR-IARI and IIL Foundation, who trained farmers on the entire process of farming from sowing to harvest, educating them about best sustainable practices to be followed at every step of the process. The idea was to fill the gaps of current farming practices by using traditional knowledge and wisdom, coupled with promoting judicious use of modern inputs. As a first step, the crop pattern in the area and the pests that affect these crops were identified. The project also roped in many young farmers to encourage the new generation in farming – there can be no better way to do this other than showing the job as a profitable one.
Lack of adequate knowledge may lead to extra cost
Sugarcane, paddy, brinjal, cauliflower and chilli were identified as the main crops in the area to build IPM packages for and initiate the project three years back. While probing into the increased input cost of farmers, their lack of knowledge of judicious use of agrochemicals was found to be the one of the most crucial contributor – the farmers were not able to identify the right stage at which a spray would be needed and made extra spray, which increased their cost but did not make any substantial difference in the output.
Farmers groups were formed to encourage information dissemination about agrochemicals and adopt IPM practices at a larger scale while agricultural experts focussed on seed production to provide superior quality seeds for vegetables such as brinjal. The farmers were trained for the judicious use of agrochemicals while adopting sustainable practices such as intelligent crop rotation. To improve access to genuine agrochemical products, the youth were trained and were helped for setting up shop of different types of agri inputs. ‘Krishi Melas’, workshops and seminars were organised for farmers to answer their queries and clarify their doubts for different agriculture technologies and their usage.
After being trained on IPM and right use of agrochemicals, the number of sprays, on an average, reduced for crops like cauliflower and brinjal. Besides, experts implemented additional methods such as devices to trap insects instead of killing them, creating stands for birds, and implanting and increasing the number of friendly insects, such as spiders which are beneficial for paddy fields. All these measures collectively yielded tremendous results – the farmers sprayed reasonably for paddy and reaped yield-profit ratio at 1:8 as against 1:3 earlier. Similarly, brinjal farming witnessed a 5-times leap in return – as against 1:2, farmers now enjoy a yield-profit ratio of 1:8. The experiment was a success not only in establishing the scientific basis of agrochemical use but also proved that when used in the right amount, agrochemicals can actually increase the profit of farmers. If implemented in the right manner and spirit, it can help attain the target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022, despite the adversities posed by the pandemic.
(Views expressed in the article are author’s own.)