A farmer-scientist partnership
IPM is basically a partnership that brings together farmers’ traditional understanding of land and crops with researchers’ technical knowledge and expertise. The scientists’ job is to make available the genetic resistance found in improved varieties – limited as it is – along with bio-pesticides, natural enemies, and improved agronomic practices. Farmers drive the process by evaluating the new technologies and ultimately by deciding how and when to use them.
In the hands of farmers, IPM can be a powerful, eco-friendly tool. In most cases the results are comparable to – and frequently better than – those achieved by using agro-chemicals alone. The principle behind IPM is to control pest problems without damaging the land and minimizing the exposure of farmers and their families to dangerous chemicals. IPM is not anti-chemical. In fact, chemicals are an important component of integrated pest management, but their use is kept to a minimum and they are deployed mainly as a complement to more natural control measures.
The principal components of an effective IPM program are host plant resistance, natural enemies, bio-pesticides, and cultural practices, combined with minimal use of agro-chemicals.
Pest problems in ICRISAT mandate crops: Priority areas of research
Insect pests, diseases, and Striga are serious constraints to increasing production, productivity, and utilization of ICRISAT’s mandate crops (sorghum, pearl millet, chickpea, pigeonpea, and groundnut) in the semi-arid tropics. Crop losses due to these pests have been estimated at over US$ 7.4 billion annually. While Helicoverpa control is heavily based on insecticides, chemical control of shoot and panicle feeding insects on cereals is beyond the reach of resource poor farmers in the SAT regions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Current sensitivities about environmental pollution, human health, and pest resurgence are a consequence of improper use of synthetic pesticides. Host plant resistance, natural plant products, bio-pesticides, natural enemies, and agronomic practices offer a potentially viable option for integrated pest management. They are relatively safe for the non-target organisms and human beings. Modern biotechnological tools such as marker-assisted selection, genetic engineering, and wide hybridization to develop crop cultivars with resistance to insect pests and diseases will have a great bearing on future pest management programs. Insect and disease modeling, decision support systems, and remote sensing would contribute to up scaling and dissemination of the IPM technologies.
Current research projects in biotechnology, crop improvement, and natural resource management focus on the major pests such as pod borers (Helicoverpa, Maruca, and Melanagromyza), Fusarium wilt, and sterility mosaic in pigeonpea; Helicoverpa, Wilt, Ascochyta, and Botrytis gray mold in chickpea; Rosette virus, foliar diseases, aflatoxins, and leaf miner in groundnut; Striga, grain molds, shoot fly, stem borers, midge, and head bugs in sorghum; and downy mildew, stem borer and head miner in pearl millet. IPM promotion and capacity building of partners are significant components of research at ICRISAT.