Farmers always worry about possible loss of their crops due to pests and crop diseases. It is one of the reasons they keep monitoring their fields to ensure all is going on well.
Fighting pests and crop diseases increases the farmers’ production costs and often reduces profits.
It usually requires physical effort – uprooting and burning infected plants, or spraying entire fields with expensive insecticides using hired labour despite health and environmental concerns about continual pest spraying of crops by farmers.
I have recently seen an article in the online Think Agronomy newsletter, published by the Kenyan based CROPNUTS (Crop Nutrition Laboratory Services Ltd) in which it is indicated that even genetic engineering aimed at protecting crops from pest attack is not likely to solve the problem entirely.
The article mentions countries such as Brazil and the US which for years have grown GE maize but farmers have still suffered some losses due to pests.
It says, “So the message is that GE crops definitely do have a strong place agronomically and could reduce the amount of insecticides applied, but they are no silver bullet and managing the resistance threat would need to be well coordinated.”
New scientific innovations to fight crop pests and diseases should not therefore derail us from our traditional pest control practices such as observing crop sanitation.
This involves the destruction of all plant residues from infected crops, instant removal of all crops showing disease symptoms, planting clean cuttings and seed, practicing crop rotation and planting early in the rain season before pests build up their populations.
We should also be conscious of the possible effects of pesticide use on important organisms such as snails and bees.
Pesticides can also kill bees which are very important in pollination. Pesticides can also kill snails and other organisms which are important for soil aeration.
Indiscriminate usage of pesticides may kill organisms that the farmer actually needs for successful crop production.
Farmers must produce safe food, free from any form of contamination. Pesticides mindlessly sprayed on vegetables and fruits could cause health problems to consumers.