Integrated pest management or IPM is a holistic approach to agriculture focusing on suppressing the pest population with the least possible disruption to agro ecosystems. The practice promotes the use of various tools such as crop rotation, pest resistant/ tolerant cultivars, weed control, field sanitation etc.
The United Nations General Assembly announced the year 2020 as the year of plant health, a step to create awareness that protecting plant health will give us an opportunity to reduce poverty, protect the environment and boost economic productivity. Hence, the role of integrated pest management becomes even more crucial.
IPM stands strong on Prevention through monitoring. The first step to any management system is to prevent the damage itself. By monitoring pest activity regularly, farmers can prevent pest outbreak itself. It is important to understand the working conditions and select crop varieties accordingly. Frequent and consistent Inspection of crops helps monitor pests, including weeds and diseases. Farmers need to be trained to be able to distinguish between pests and beneficial insects and have access to experts to determine if intervention is necessary.
Over the years, the use of “good/ beneficial worms” such as the Green Lacewing Larvae prey on a variety of soft bodied insects and pests, keeping farms secure. Another interesting technique is to set up “trap crops”. Farmers plant crops that are attractive to insects and treat these crops with insecticides. Japanese beetles can be trapped with soybeans while harlequin bugs are attracted by mustard plants; and radishes can be used to attract corn and cabbage maggots.
However, IPM needs to evolve with the times, because pests also develop immunity towards the various control methods. 2020 as the international year of plant health serves as an opportunity to create renewed awareness around IPM.
- We should create a knowledge network where insights from the research by the science community reaches the farmers, in a timely manner. This information can help farmers devise personalized strategies to tackle the pests and weeds on their farms.
- Investing in research and development is critical to develop control agents that can help in IPM but at the same time not affect the ecological balance.
- Another important component of research and development is improving crop varieties with pest and disease resistant traits. Bt Cotton in India is the only example of a pest resistant crop which has seen success time and again in preventing crops from bollworm attacks. The experience is proof that India should bring biotech enabled crops which have pest resistant traits, but also invest in continuously adapting them to the changing capabilities of the pests
- Public private partnerships are extremely important in making IPM a part of ground level farming practices. PPPs are essential as only then can we scale up access to new IPM technologies for the huge base of farmers we have, and also provide them with seamless flow of information, education, training and access to tools.
Only with the help of farmer self-help groups, NGOs that are training farmers across the country, civil society creating policies for agriculture, companies investing in R&D and the science community committed to IPM, can we ensure that our farmers are able to grow quality and nutritious food.