Pest management in conservation agriculture
By Samwel Nyaga
Integrated pest management is important in keeping pest populations below economically injurious levels. Speaking during a six days Conservation Agriculture Training of Trainer (TOT) course held on August 24-29, 2015 at Olympia Hotel in Nyahururu, Mr. Gichuki Hutu, Laikipia West Master Trainer said that dependence on a single pest management method would have undesirable effects on crop production.
He said that farmers should recognize that there is no “cure-all” in pest control and they should determine and correct the cause of the pest problem by understanding pest biology and ecology.
The County Government of Laikipia in collaboration with Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations organized the six days course.
“Understanding crop growth and development is an underlying principle of integrated pest management. You need to know how to grow a healthy crop, when it is susceptible to pest damage and stress and how the environment affects pest and crop development,” said Mr. Hutu.
He said that the basic principles of intergraded pest management are prevention, observation, and intervention. He noted that integrated pest management is not static due to emergence of new pests, strains, shift in weed species and pesticide resistance.
The general aim of prevention is to reduce initial severity or buildup of pest infestation. This includes: Growing crops and choosing varieties appropriate for the location; sound rotations; use of herbicide tolerant or pest resistant crops; taking steps to encourage beneficial insects and animals; use of sowing and undersown mixed crops; careful harvesting; good Hygiene; and seed cleaning and storage.
Observation involves determining when and what action to take based on all available information like crop monitoring for pest and damage thresholds. Use of decision support systems to interpret collected data, sound record keeping, and advice and support from experts is also important.
Interventions aim to reduce the effects of economically damaging pest populations, weeds, and disease to acceptable levels through mechanical, chemical, and biological measures. He urged farmers to use pesticides only when the benefits outweigh the risks.
Benefits of an integrated pest management program include: increased consumer confidence in the quality of food; increased crop profitability especially where presently pest control is poorly used or ineffectual; stable and reliable yields; reduced pest infestations; sustainable agricultural production; protection of environment through elimination of unnecessary pesticide applications; and reduced risk of crop loss by pests.
Each pest control technique must not only be environmentally sound but should be compatible with producers objectives like being economically viable, effective, understandable and able to be implemented in stages.
He said that it is possible to manipulate the environment to the crop’s advantage by utilizing all suitable pest management tactics like cultural, mechanical, sanitary, natural, biological, and host plant resistance method.
He noted that cultural control effectiveness is through agronomic practices designed to optimize growing conditions for the crops in order to create unfavorable conditions for the pest.
Sanitary control helps to avoid introducing a pest into a field. Cleaning field equipment, planting certified seeds and quarantines can ensure sanitary control.
He said that host plant resistance is by manipulating the crop to withstand or tolerate pests through natural breeding method and use of genetically modified plants.
Pest is an organism with characteristics that farmers see as damaging or unwanted, as it harms agriculture through feeding on crops or parasitizing livestock.