31) Integrated Pest Management strategies to increase pulses production (May 2000)

A TIME honored farmers' practice of managing pigeonpea podborer has come in handy for the farmers of Hamsanapalli in Banvaspeta mandal of Mehboobnagar district, Andhra Pradesh. This cost-effective, eco-friendly method is now spreading to over 200 villages in four districts of Andhra Pradesh.

Helicoverpa armigera (gram podborer), the serious pest of pigeonpea, destroys all the pods despite intensive insecticides application. Inappropriate and indiscriminate use of insecticides has led to the development of resistance, creation of secondary pests, loss in bio- diversity, and increase in human health hazards. Besides, the chemical control was prohibitively expensive for the farmers, and it made pigeonpea cultivation unattractive.

At the same time farmers cannot afford to skip this crop, as it is one of the most important legume crops, and a source of inexpensive protein in the tropics and subtropics. Pigeonpea losses due to Helicoverpa infestation ranged between 20 to 100 per cent, and many growers burnt their fingers. Some farmers who lost their crop committed suicide. The pest spelt doom for the crop.

When farmers found themselves in a tight spot, they sought the advice of an 80-year-old farmer Mr Bitchappa of Hamsanapalli in a participatory discussion organized by a non-governmental organization (NGO), which is actively working in the region. Mr Bitchappa recounted his early experiences in combating this menace. It is a simple, and effective method of mechanical shaking of the plants when the flowering and pod setting commences. This mechanical agitation dislodged 95 per cent of the larvae feeding on the flowers and tender pods.

The podborer larvae dropping off the plants are collected over a sheet, made using old woven sacks, which is dragged along the ground covering the interspace between two rows of pigeonpea. A few hens are allowed to follow this sheet, and the plump worms provided a feast for the voracious birds. They proved to be good protein source for the birds.

"This practice has been in vogue in this tract for several decades, and it was discontinued only in the Seventies when the intensive use of subsidized chemicals took over. The time-honored farmers' wisdom is now revived last year, when farmers found that all other methods of control proved to be ineffective,'' explained Mr V Satya Bhupal Reddy, Executive Director, Research In Environment, Education and Development Society (REEDS), the NGO, which is spreading this eco-friendly technology among farmers in various districts of Andhra Pradesh.

The technology is fine-tuned and improved by the scientists at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Patancheru near Hyderabad. "We are working with farmers, NGOs and the national agricultural systems (NARS) to include this simple indigenous cultural practice as an critical component of integrated pest management (IPM) strategy for pigeonpea,'' said Dr G V Ranga Rao, a senior entomologist at ICRISAT.

This environmentally sound cultural practice is backed up with a spray of nuclear polyhedrosis virus (NPV) after four days. The operation is repeated three times more at an interval of 15 days. "This IPM strategy worked out cheaper as low as Rs. 1000 per hectare for the four rounds of operations. It also provided a safe and immediate relief to the crop ensuring high and stable yields,'' said Mr Satya Bhupal Reddy.

Farmers spent only Rs 2,500 per hectare for cultivating pigeonpea using this IPM as compared to Rs. 7500 when they resorted to chemical pesticides, according to him. When they used the insecticides, the yield fell to 750 kg per hectare, while it has gone up to over 1.25 tonnes with the IPM, according to him.

ICRISAT's strategy to increase the pulses production is relying on participatory approach to adopt the environment friendly integrated pest management strategies. The main components of our strategy are empowering the resource poor farmers to take right decisions for following appropriate pest control measures through training of farmers in the IPM methods; to reduce the misuse of chemicals and protect the environment; make quality biocontrol agents (plant products and insect pathogens) available at village level through involvement of local non-governmental organizations; make available the seeds of improved pest tolerant high yielding varieties locally; and augmenting natural enemies (including birds), and need-based use of chemical insecticides.

The IPM activities have been organized in partnership with (i) Governmental organizations: Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), and Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI); (ii) Non-Governmental organization (NGOs); (iii) State Agricultural Universities (SAG); and (iv) Farmers with financial support from Asian Development Bank (ADB) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Progress

During 1997, IPM research was initiated at 10 on-farm villages, which has been expanded rapidly to 30 villages by 1999 involving more than 1000 farmers in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

ICRISAT's collaborative effort with ICAR led to the successful case study of village based IPM approach. This project produced the first IPM village, Ashta, Maharashtra, India which harvested healthy and good crops in the past two seasons. During 1999 cropping season Ashta became a model village where chemical pesticides were not used even once. However, farmers protected their crops using bio-control agents such as nuclear polyhedrosis virus (NPV), Trichoderma fungi as an bio-agent for seed treatment and Trichogramma release.

To meet the demand for NPV from various on-farm locations the collaborative approach has successfully launched seven village-level NPV production units to strengthen eco-friendly crop protection.

Chickpea and pigeonpea IPM farmers harvested six-fold increase in yield through better management of pests with 6-100% reduction in pesticide usage across the locations. Thus the impact of this project resulted in terms of savings in plant protection, higher yields and stability in income.

Chickpea in the Ganges Delta threatened

Millions of small holding farmers from the fertile lower Ganges delta of Nepal and Bangladesh are reluctantly abandoning chickpea due to severe pressure from botrytis gray mold (BGM) disease and the Helicoverpa pod borer. Recent surveys by ICRISAT, ICAR (India), BARI (Bangladesh), and NARC (Nepal), Indicated the availability of affordable solutions (e.g., seeds of high yielding chickpea variety, IPM techniques, better timing of sowing, optimal tillage, fertility management), but they require modest investments in inputs and more awareness among farmers. ICRISAT in partnership with NARS involved to generate and disseminate such information, bringing hope to farm families.

ICRISAT in partnership with NARC and farmers launched a large scale program on on-farm IPM of chickpea. During 1998-99 postrainy season one hundred and ten and during 1999-2000, 550 farmers from the villages of Banke, Bardia, Nawalparasi, and Sirha districts in Nepal, participated in these on-farm experiments. Avarodhi an improved chickpea cultivar from Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR), Kanpur, ICAR was used in these trials. Based on BGM incidence and pod borer infestation, fungicide Bavistin and insecticide Endosulfan was sprayed once to control BGM and pod borer. The incidence of disease and pest was significantly reduced. Farmers have harvested 2 to 2.5 tonnes per ha of chickpea following the IPM practices. There was 2-6 fold increase in grain weight in IPM plots over farmer's practice. This methodology of participatory research was highly appreciated by all partners, especially by farmers as it has helped them in regaining their confidence in growing a healthy crop of chickpea in areas which were left un-sown after paddy harvest.

All project partners, especially farmers were given adequate training in crop and pest management with special emphasis on on-farm IPM. Additionally six graduate students were housed in this project to generate basic information on the role of various IPM components to strengthen future activities.

Since this project has shown promising results through efficient partnerships it is envisaged to extend this technology to the needy farmers of southern Asia and eastern Africa where pigeonpea and chickpea are important, highlighting the importance of village-based IPM rather than crop or individual pest/disease-based approach. Through this participatory approach resource poor farmers in this region can increase their incomes through increased production of protein rich chickpea and pigeonpea crops on marginal lands and also contribute substantially towards the noble cause of protecting the environment for our next generations.

by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.