No farmer is a stranger to the potential damage uninvited guests in their fields can cause to their crops. Yes, we are talking about pests which infest crops, reduce yields, lower agricultural production and also threaten food security. While most modern-day farmers take refuge in chemical pesticides, they fail to foresee the impact of such pesticides on the environment.
In an interview with the Times of India, biotechnologist turned organic farmer and award-winning youth icon, Rajesh Krishnan, boasts of not having sprayed even a drop of pesticide in his ten-acre paddy field at Thrissilerry in Wayanad for over four years now. He has successfully kept destructive rice pests like the leaf roller (Cnaphalocrocis medinalis) and stem borer (Scirpophaga incertulas) at bay using traditional techniques.
Rajesh has been protecting his rice plants against the leaf roller by sweeping them with branches of the ‘Parakam’ tree. The rough leaves of the tree dislodge the caterpillars from the leaves. These caterpillars fall into the water, which is immediately drained out.
Farmers in Kerala have formulated organic pesticides to manage various pests including borers, bugs and caterpillars. The popular decoction, ‘Neemastram,’ is made using cow urine, dung and neem leaf paste, while the ‘Brahmastram’ is formulated by combining fruits like custard apple, leaves of papaya, guava and pomegranate with neem leaves and cow urine.
However, as most organic farmers would agree, in the natural technique of farming, pest management is a lot more important than the eliminating pests completely. Here is a list of innovative pest management techniques being adopted by farmers across the country and globe –
Crop rotation is an efficient way of preventing pests from getting used to the types of plants that are being cultivated. The method uses alternating the species of crops that are grown every year. In addition to managing pests, this farming method also increases the fertility of the soil.
Intercropping involves simultaneous cultivation of two or more crops on the same field. When different species of plants are cultivated on the same field, there is a definite distance between crops of the same species. So, it is efficient in attracting pests away from their target host plant.
Farmers can also protect crops from pests, by increasing the species of vegetables, plants, and fruits they grow. This reduces the possibility of every crop getting damaged by pests.
This is the method of using pests to fight pests. Some farmers in the West have introduced predatory insects like ladybugs or mites, which kill other pests to avoid crop damage.
Another prime reason to switch to organic pesticides is how it allows farmers to turn agricultural outputs into natural pesticides and does not affect their health or damage the crops. While it is common for most Indian farmers to use neem as a natural pesticide, farmers in Nepal spray ‘Zhol Mol’ an organic liquid pesticide made of neem leaves, Timur (a Nepali spice), garlic, livestock urine, and water to their vegetables and fruits.