12) ICRISAT and partners initiate biopesticide production in villages of India and Nepal

They are caterpillars that devour crop plants and cause extensive loss to farmers. Helicoverpa armigera, also known as the cotton bollworm or legume pod borer, has been estimated to cause annual crop damage of up to US$ 2 billion globally with an additional cost of US$ 500 million on insecticides for its management.

Interestingly, Helicoverpa armigera larvae (the caterpillar) provide a priceless environmental service. It can be used to produce a biopesticide that can be used to protect crops from Helicoverpa armigera itself.

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has given a modern twist to a traditional technology and has been able to establish biopesticide production units in 76 villages in India and 20 in Nepal in collaboration with national agricultural research and extension systems and non-governmental organizations, through a World Bank funded project. This project proposal had won the World Bank's Development Marketplace Award for 2005.

Farmers in villages in India and Nepal have been traditionally shaking crop plants to dislodge Helicoverpa larvae. Using these larvae for the multiplication of the Nucleo Polyhedrosis Virus (NPV), a biopesticide that kills Helicoverp , is the modern twist that ICRISAT provided.

The technology for NPV production involves collecting the larvae and feeding them with an NPV-infected diet till they die due to infection. The NPV biopesticide is extracted from the dead larvae, and can be sprayed on crops to manage Helicoverpa attack.

With the high impact that the biopesticide, strengthened with other eco-friendly activities, had in the 96 villages of India and Nepal in the past two years, the farmers reduced the spraying of chemical pesticide by 65% in cotton, 24% in pigeonpea and 21% in chickpea, thereby reducing financial costs to the farmers, and protecting the environment and crop-friendly insects.

According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, through the biopesticide production project in India and Nepal ICRISAT and partners have reached the know-how and do-how for the production of an effective biopesticide to the hands of the villagers. This enables the villagers to be self-sufficient in meeting their needs for this biopesticide.

Dr GV Ranga Rao, ICRISAT's Scientist working on integrated pest management, said that this project not only provided the farmers an alternative to chemical pesticides to deal with the Helicoverpa armigera problem, but also enabled them to start the biopesticide production in their villages.

The World Bank Marketplace Award enhanced the scope of the project by funding the establishment of decentralized biopesticide production units in 76 villages in India and 20 in Nepal .

In addition to establishing the village level biopesticide units, ICRISAT and partners trained 201 researchers and 983 farmers in India and Nepal on NPV production at the village level and integrated pest management.

For further information, contact Dr GV Ranga Rao at g(dot)rangarao(at)cgiar(dot)org.

by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.