Eco-friendly practices in IPM
Light-trap is a simple and inexpensive method to monitor the movement of crop pests.
A NUMBER of eco-friendly approaches based on indigenous knowledge, farmers' observations and scientific research have come to strengthen the integrated pest management (IPM) strategies.
The cultural practices, starting from selecting the disease-free and robust planting material to right sowing time and from deep tilling to weeding out unwanted vegetation and soil-borne pests and pathogens and crop hygiene, have contributed significantly in keeping crop pests at bay.
Similarly, the pest surveillance and monitoring exercises based on frequent visits to the fields and sweeping with insect nets, and observing the movement of the pests using pheromone traps, light traps and sticky traps have helped in deciding the threshold levels of pest incidence, and deciding on a spraying schedule with botanical insecticides.
The need-based application of safe botanical insecticides not only cuts the costs, but also helps in reducing the pollutant load in the environment, according to IPM specialists.
The use of biological agents to manage the pests is another important aspect of IPM. A host of natural predators and parasites exist in nature, and by encouraging a balanced population of these friendly-organisms in the crop environment, the pests could be managed effectively.
Spiders and preying mantises have been effectively used in managing serious crops.
The indigenous knowledge and farmers' wisdom have played a crucial role in promoting IPM strategies. Inundative and augmentative release of parasites and predators of specific pests is another eco-friendly approach, which has been successfully practised in managing the pests of sugarcane, cotton and host of other commercial crops.
Friendly birds are good custodians of crops, and they help manage the number of serious insect pests within the thresholds. By providing suitable perches in the wetlands and also dry lands the birds could be encouraged to visit the crop fields.
The provision of owl-perches in agricultural fields has significantly contributed in eliminating rodent menace.
Bird-perches in cotton and groundnut fields have worked successfully in many farmers' fields. Growing ``antenna'' crops such as corn (maize) and sorghum (jowar or `cholam') have also helped in attracting the birds to crop fields as bio-control agents. By raising companion crops along the main crops the pest could be managed well. While, the trap crops help in trapping the pests in them, other plants with strong aroma, such as fennel and garlic, help in repelling the pests.
The pests can be managed well by judiciously following the mixed-cropping, alley cropping and border cropping with suitable crop varieties.
The light traps are mostly used for monitoring the pest movements in the fields. In integrated rice-fish systems, the light traps also help in providing the protein-rich feed for the fish. ``Light trap is simple and easy to keep. We also use it as an indicator to know when the power supply is resumed in the night so that we could start our motors for irrigation,'' explained one progressive farmer.
A number of such eco-friendly and low- cost technologies should also be blended with need-based pest-management interventions to make Integrated Pest Management a success in the farmers' fields, according to the specialists.
By Our Agriculture Correspondent
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