Hands-on training in the use of simple but effective insect traps offers Jharkhand farm communities a safe way to protect their crops.
Acquiring the skills to apply Good Agricultural Practices sometimes requires farmers to try new, unfamiliar technologies. Such was the case in Jharkhand state, India, where small-scale vegetable producers typically rely on indiscriminate and intensive pesticide use to control pests and diseases in their crops.
The Jharkhand Opportunities for Harnessing Rural Growth (JOHAR), a project funded by the World Bank, strives to improve productivity of the state’s vegetable production system and enhance the income of project beneficiaries. The World Vegetable Center provides JOHAR with technical advice, including training in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) coupled with field demonstrations aimed at reducing chemical inputs to the lowest possible level, and other eco-friendly measures that reduce input costs and ensure healthy vegetables with minimal chemical residue are available for consumers.
Few farmers in the state had tried sticky or pheromone traps to protect their crops. These types of traps offer a safe and effective means to monitor and control pests. But, for the traps to be deployed to best effect, it’s important for farmers to be able to identify various pests, diseases and damage symptoms.
Common vegetables cultivated in Jharkhand include tomato, brinjal, chili, cauliflower, cabbage, gourds, melons, green pea, and okra. These vegetables are damaged by different kinds of sucking pests (whiteflies, aphids, thrips and leafhoppers) and chewing pests (leaf miners, lepidopteran pests including Spodoptera, Helicoverpa, Leucinodes, Plutella, Etiella, and fruit flies).
When there’s a pest problem in their fields farmers often rely on the advice of pesticide dealers, who will identify the problem and prescribe a chemical control.
Through classroom and hands-on IPM training from WorldVeg and JOHAR, farmers learned how to identify damage symptoms—the “calling cards” of different pests and diseases—and apply safe methods for control. IPM promotes a combination of cultural, mechanical, bio-control and chemical control measures, and strongly emphasizes monitoring so farmers know which pests are causing problems.
Sticky and pheromone traps were demonstrated in plots managed in Bhandra, Churchu, Dhalbhumgarh, Gumla, Kuru, Khunti and Patamda blocks of Jharkhand. Trainees and beneficiaries learned how to identify some common pests and were introduced to different kinds of traps and the lures that attract pests into the traps.
The effect of IPM measures was well noted by residents in farming communities with cucurbit demonstration sites. The menace of fruit fly is all too familiar to farmers accustomed to yield losses from this pest; however, many farmers were unaware of the exact cause. When Bactrocera (fruit fly) traps were installed in the demonstration plots, the farmers were astonished by the number of male flies attracted by the lure and trapped and killed inside the trap. Farmers gradually began to realize that a simple, suitable trap could help avert considerable crop damage.
Mr. Baiju Hembram, a farmer from Chirugora village, Dhalbhumgarh block, Jharkhand had been cultivating vegetables, including chili, brinjal, and cucurbits for several years, exclusively relying on chemicals to control fruit fly and other pests. After WorldVeg IPM demonstrations on his brinjal field, which is monitored by WorldVeg staff member Mr. Bhim Das, he realized a profit from his crop. Pheromone and sticky traps helped him monitor and check insect activity, and thus reduce the amount of produce damaged by pests.
“I used to lose from 9-20% of my brinjal to pests such as the brinjal fruit and shoot borer,” Mr. Hembram said. “But with the IPM practices, my losses have been reduced to 2%.” Through regular monitoring of pest activities and implementing appropriate prophylactic measures, he realized a bumper crop of brinjal. Mr. Hembram harvested 5,168 kg of brinjal, which fetched INR100,000 (~USD1500) gross from only 800 m2 of land. Other farmers in the block that did not follow IPM practices lost 15-22% of their harvest due to the pest.
Farmers that use Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) with appropriate IPM can reduce the use of chemical pesticides, which are potentially hazardous for human health and biodiversity. The farmers are now more attentive to installing traps, periodically replacing sticky traps and lures, checking insect activities, and responding promptly with safe, appropriate measures.
Story and photos: Praveen Amarlapudi, Devender Pal Kaur, Bhoyar Mahesh
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