Dr. G. V. Ramanjaneyulu, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
The attempts to overcome the serious economical and ecological problems of the chemical pesticides have given rise to alternative systems to manage pests and pesticides.
Integrated Pest Management
In an attempt to slow the development of pest resistance, improve the financial basis for agricultural production, and improve the health of the farming population, systems of Integrated Pesticide Management have been introduced around the world. IPM is an ecological approach to plant protection, which encourages the use of fewer pesticide applications.
The field experiences gave rise to several paradigms of IPM which agriculturists presently adhere to. The most up-to-date paradigm of IPM is ecology based approach which is promoted by FAO world wide in the form of Farmers Field Schools (FFS). Through interactive learning and field-experimentation, FFS programs teach farmers how to experiment and problem-solve independently, with the expectation that they will thus require fewer extension services and will be able to adapt the technologies to their own specific environmental and cultural needs (Vasquez-Caicedo et al., 2000). Extension agents, who are viewed as facilitators rather than instructors, conduct learning activities in the field on relevant agricultural practices. In the FFS, a method called “agro-ecosystem analysis” is used to assess all beneficials, pests, neutral insects and disease, and then determine if any intervention like a pesticide spray is needed. Economic Threshold Levels are discussed in the FFS, but crop protection decisions are based on conserving beneficial insects/spiders.
The Indonesian tropical wet rice ecosystem the IPM field school experience (Kenmore, 1980, Way and Heong, 1994 and Settle, et.al., 1996) shows that
- Beneficial insects/spiders comprise the majority of species in healthy ecosystems. 64% of all species identified were predators (306 species) and parasitoids (187 species); neutrals (insect detritivores, plankton feeders) comprise 19% (Settle et.al., 1996) and Rice pests constitute only 17% of species.
- Beneficials are extremely effective in controlling major rice pests; very substantial reduction of pesticide applications does not threaten rice yield.
- Contrary to previous understanding, beneficials typically enter the tropical wet rice ecosystem before pests, and feed on detritivores and other “neutral” insects, e.g., Springtails (Collembola) and Midge larvae (Chironomidae) already present in the rice paddy. Beneficials are therefore present from the start of the crop season and effective in pest control from an earlier stage than had previously been assumed (Settle, et. al., 1996; Wu et. al., 1994)
The learnings from IPM projects and FFS experiences worldwide should have led to research on the complex interaction between crop ecology, agronomic practices, insect biology, and climate change to develop effective methods to manage disease and insect control strategies. Similarly the farmers’ knowledge on using the local resources could have been captured and the principles could have been standardized. But FFS mostly remained as a paradigm shift in agricultural extension: the training program that utilizes participatory methods “to help farmers develop their analytical skills, critical thinking, and creativity, and help them learn to make better decisions”. The agriculture research and extension system worldwide still continue to believe in chemical pesticide based pest management in agriculture.
The effectiveness of the IPM FFS could have been enhanced by broadening the focus from a single crop to a broader systems approach, to address other matters, such as water management, crop rotation, crop diversification and marketing (Mancini, 2005).
Though FFS is seen as a knowledge intensive process, main focus was on taking external institutional knowledge to farmers. Proper space was not provided for traditional knowledge and practices or grass root innovations by farmers. In a study by Mancini (2006) evaluating the cotton IPM FFS in Andhra Pradesh, farmers reported that their confidence in implementing the new management practices was not strong enough to translate into a change in behaviour. This supports the argument that an effective, empowering learning process is based on experience, rather than on simple information and technology transfer (Lightfoot et al., 2001).
Pesticide industry is aware of the growing pest resistance towards their pesticides. Many of the pesticides become useless as the pests develop resistance and loose their market before they can recover the costs involved in developing the product leaving aside the profits. This situation has forced the pesticide industry to come up with their paradigm of IPM called ‘Insecticide Resistance Management’ (IRM) which is a proactive pesticide resistance-management strategy to avoid the repeated use of a particular pesticide, or pesticides, that have a similar site of action, in the same field, by rotating pesticides with different sites of action. This approach will slow the development of one important type of resistance, target-site resistance, without resorting to increased rates and frequency of application and will prolong the useful life of pesticides. This resistance-management strategy considers cross-resistance between pesticides with different modes of action resulting from the development of other types of resistance (e.g., enhanced metabolism, reduced penetration, or behavior changes) (PMRA, 1999).
Though pesticide industry states that it fully supports a policy of restricted pesticide use within an IPM programme, it perceives a clear need for pesticides in most situations. Furthermore, its practice of paying pesticide salespeople on a commission basis, with increased sales being rewarded with increased earnings, is unlikely in practice to encourage a limited use of pesticides (Konradsen, 2003).
Right from the time of the Rio Earth conference, India has been highlighting this IPM policy in all its official documents. The ICAR had also established a National Centre for Integrated Pest Management in 1998. In India a total of 9,111 Farmers’ Field Schools (FFSs) have been conducted by the Central Integrated Pest Management Centres under the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine & Storage from 1994-95 to 2004-05 wherein 37,281 Agricultural Extension Officers and 275,056 farmers have been trained in IPM. Similar trainings have also been provided under various crop production programmes of the Government of India and the State Governments (Reports of Government of India available on http://www.agricoop.nic.in).
IPM is sought to be made an inherent component of various schemes viz., Technology Mission on Cotton (TMC), Technology Mission on Oilseeds and Pulses (TMOP), Technology Mission on Integrated Horticultural Development for NE, J & K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Technology Mission on Coconut Development etc. besides the scheme “Strengthening and Modernization of Pest Management” approach in India being implemented by the Directorate of PPQ&S [Plant Protection, Quarantine & Storage].
The problems with chemical pesticides also prompted the research systemsandindustry to look for alternatives. Several schemes and projects have been initiated to research, produce and market biopesticides and biocontrol agents which are recommended as non chemical approaches to pest management.
Today, there is much data generated by the agriculture research establishment in India to show that non-chemical IPM practices across crops have yielded better results in terms of pest control and economics for farmers. However, the field level use of pesticides has not changed much. The official establishment usually claims that pesticide consumption in the country has come down because of the promotion and deployment of IPM practices on the ground by the agriculture research and extension departments [as was informed to the Joint Parliamentary Committee in 2003]. However, the actual progress of IPM on the ground has been quite dismal and small.
Further, the government often fails to take into account the fact that even if pesticide consumption has decreased in terms of quantities due to a shift to consumption of low-volume, high-concentration, high-value pesticides, the real picture in terms of number of sprays and costs involved is still the same for the farmers.
The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) initiatives which have come up as alternative though largely debates about the effects of pesticide on human health and on environment still believe that pesticides are inevitable, at least as a last resort and suggests safe and ‘intelligent use’. On the other hand, replacing chemical products by biological products by itself may not solve the problem of pest management with restoration of ecological balance.
While the inevitability of pesticides in agriculture is promoted by the industry as well as the public research and extension bodies, there are successful experiences emerging from farmers’ innovations call for a complete paradigm shift in pest management.
Shifting Paradigms: Non Pesticidal Management
The ecological and economical problems of pests and pesticides in agriculture gave rise to several eco-friendly innovative approaches which do not rely on the use of chemical pesticides. These initiatives involved rediscovering traditional practices and contemporary grass root innovations supplemented by strong scientific analysis mainly supported by non-formal institutions like NGOs. Such innovations have begun to play an important role in development sector. This trend has important implications both for policy and practice. One such initiative by Centre for World Solidarity and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad was Non Pesticidal Management.
The ‘Non Pesticidal Management’ which emanates from collaborative work of public institutions, civil society organizations and Farmers in Andhra Pradesh shows how diverse players when come together to work in generating new knowledge and practice, can evolve more sustainable models of development.
Pest is not a problem but a symptom. Disturbance in the ecological balance among different components of crop ecosystem makes certain insects reach pest status. From this perspective evolved the Non Pesticidal Management which is an ‘ecological approach to pest management using knowledge and skill based practices to prevent insects from reaching damaging stages and damaging proportions by making best use of local resources, natural processes and community action’.
Non Pesticidal Management is mainly based on
- Understanding crop ecosystem and suitably modifying by adopting suitable cropping systems and crop production practices. The type of pests and their behavior differs with crop ecosystem. Similarly the natural enemies’ composition also varies with the cropping systems.
- Understanding insect biology and behavior and adopting suitable preventive measures to reduce the pest numbers.
- Building Farmers knowledge and skills in making best use of local resources and natural processes and community action. Natural ecological balance which ensures that pests do not reach a critical number in the field that endangers the yield. Nature can restore such a balance if it is not meddled with too much. Hence no chemical pesticides/pesticide incorporated crops at all. For an effective communication to farmers about the concept effectively and to differentiate from Integrated Pest Management which believes that chemical pesticides can be safely used and are essential as lost resort it is termed as ‘Non Pesticidal Management’.
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