Pesticides: What we ought to know

Saturday October 6 2018

Michael J. Ssali

Michael J. Ssali 

By Michael J. Ssali

Pests are a big nuisance to farmers because, among other things, they reduce crop production.

To overcome the problem, farmers often resort to buying pesticides which are poisonous chemicals manufactured to kill the pests.
They may be dusted or sprayed on the crop to prevent pest attack.

The farmer, is however, expected to know that it is extremely important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying the pesticides.
If they are applied to crops such as tomatoes or other vegetables in heavy doses they can be harmful to the people that consume the items.

Innocent insects and animals which we need to preserve the environment like bees, butterflies, worms, and lizards may get killed by the pesticides. We need bees to enhance pollination.
Pesticides may kill worms which would be useful in aeration of the soil and decomposition of organic matter.

Some pesticides sink into the soil and get absorbed by food crops.
Yet this is food for humans and farmed animals.

Besides the poisonous aspect, pesticides are expensive and their continued use reduces farmers’ profits.
Irish potato farmers are said to devote nearly half of their crop production costs to pesticides, fighting potato late blight.

One way to avoid pesticide use is to resort to growing pest resistant crop varieties that are bred in our agricultural research institutes.
It is always good to seek advice from the area agricultural services extension worker about what crop varieties to plant with regard to pest tolerance and resistance.

With the onset of climate change, new crop diseases and other challenges such as extreme weather conditions have come along.
It will require a lot of scientific innovations and a positive attitude by African policy makers towards those innovations for farming to accelerate its pace.

Research in agricultural biotechnology has come up with Irish potato that can be grown without worrying about potato late blight.
We now have banana resistant to the bacterial wilt.

We have B-Cotton which can be grown without pesticide use.
We are only waiting for our policy makers to come up with the regulatory law for farmers to get access to the crop varieties.

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