Good Practices

Saying No To Pesticides

Integrated pest management (IPM), which evolved in the 1970s is a concept that unifies different pest management techniques. The goal of IPM is to achieve economic crop production in an eco-friendly manner. The practice of IPM requires sensitive intervention and substantial collaboration between farmers, extension personnel and plant protection professionals. Dr Madhu Subramanian, an entomologist with Kerala Agricultural University, shares his experience in promoting IPM in paddy in Kerala.

THE CONTEXT

Kerala, the southernmost state of India, is known as ‘Gods own country’ for its natural splendour and scenic beauty. A characteristic feature of the state’s lush green landscape, until not so long ago, was the verdant paddy fields that stretched as far as eyes could see. However, over the last four decades the rice fields have been disappearing at an alarming rate and presently occupies a mere 30 per cent of the 7.2 lakh ha they covered in 1970s. A host of factors such as increasing cost of inputs, labour scarcity and price fluctuations have all contributed to the present debacle.  The Palakkad district remains one of the last bastions for paddy in Kerala. However, here too, rice cultivation is plagued by pest and disease problems leading to increasing cost of cultivation and reduced yields.

The Vadakkenchery Panchayat of the district has traditionally grown paddy as the principal crop. Around 1500 farmers grow rice in an area of 718 ha, predominantly during the second crop season (September-January). High yielding varieties such as Jyothi and Uma have replaced most of the earlier varieties. The cost of cultivation is high, owing to the extensive use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Insecticides like quinalphos, chlorpyrifos, lamda cyhalothrin, and cypermethrin are used indiscriminately regardless of pest incidence. Such unscientific use of plant protection chemicals have rendered the cultivation non-profitable and over the course of time pushed farmers into a vicious debt trap. 

THE INTERVENTION

It was in such a backdrop that the Vadakkencherry Krishibhavan (under the State
Department of Agriculture), in collaboration with the All India Co-ordinated Research
Project on Biological Control of Crop Pests & Weeds (AICRP on BCCP &W) under Kerala Agricultural University and Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA of the Department of Agriculture), launched an initiative in 2015-16 for popularisation of IPM for rice. An area of 10 ha at Anakkappara padasekharam was selected as the site for the intervention.

Anakkappara Padasekharam

The primary objective of the programme was to reduce the consumption of chemical pesticides through adoption of sustainable IPM practices. The technology package included the following:

  • Seed treatment with Pseudomonas flourescens @ 10g/kg of seeds
  • Release of Trichogramma japonicum and T. chilonis @ 1 lakh/ha from 20 days after transplanting. Five releases were made at 10 days interval.
  • Need-based application of Pseudomomas @ 2% against foliar diseases. 
  • Need-based application of neem based pesticides

GOOD PRACTICES

Selection of farmers

Twenty two farmers of the Padasekharam covering a contiguous area of 10 ha were identified and were formed into a Farmer Field School (FFS) after ascertaining their willingness to follow BIPM (Bio-intensive integrated pest management) practices.

Farmer Field School

The Farmer Field School met at 8.30 am every Monday morning, along with the
Krishibhavan team as well as AICRP scientists. The entire group then went through the fields

An FFS Session in Progress
to assess the crop situation. The information gathered from the field was shared and discussed to decide on the future course of action. Such critical analyses of the field situation every week helped the famers take appropriate decision on management practices.

Pest surveillance

Integrated pest management relies heavily on information regarding the weather, the crop phenology, the pest and natural enemy populations etc., for decision making. Such information was collected througha continuous process of information gathering from fixed plots as well as through roving surveys.

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  • Thanks for sharing Saying No To Pesticides. My observations are as follows 1. IPM is a time tested technology that unifies different pest management techniques in eco- friendly manner. Its application by the scientists on a research farm or on experimental farm is quite effective as good number of variables would be under control and could be manoeuvred. 2. However, at the field level the application of IPM suffers from serious limitations such as the knowledge of farmers, his ability to combine the techniques, surveillance support, the competency of field extension functionaries to guide the process in the field, etc. 3. Even the arrangements for the IPM training for the farmers and for the field functionaries need to be strengthened. Good amount of support is required for development of structured modules and information back up through print and electronic media the affected areas. The ICAR IPM Centre and the DAC Plant Heath Management Institute could play an important role in developing capacities of state and district level training centres and in turn the farmers. 4. The best possible field demonstration and skill imparting mechanism would be Farmers Field Schools (FFS) where IPM could be taken as one of the technologies for a selected crop and different pest management techniques could be shared in such a Field Schools. There again comes the role of lead farmer. 5.The university scientists and the KVK SMS would need to provide PM technology back up to the block level formations of the department of agriculture. For example in Kerala, I have seen that the Krishi Bhavans at Panchayat levels need a solid back up of the university scientists and of SMS of KVKs in promoting such complex technologies. This linkage is very weak all across the states. May be we could learn from the experience abroad. Extension services have to be thoroughly re-oriented to handle this through Farmer Groups. 6.We must keep these in view and have to have a large number of pilots may be jointly taken up by the KVKs and ATMAs through FFSs. Empowered FFSs would show the bigger foot prints on the ground in targeted crops,I believe. I am sharing this with Dr.Ragunathan ,former PP Adviser to GOI, an authority on the subject and request his considered comments.

  • This was really a good report to read. I always wonder, why the Extension Professionals were not highlighted when there is a success. The entire credit for success in agriculture is always given to farmers, scientists and the policy makers. This is one of the reports where the Extension Officer is sharing the credit. It gave a good feeling. It would be still better if the Extension Methods were documented. This would have been learning for other Extension Professionals.