Scout out pests and diseases to protect your crops

Jimmy and Lerato Botha, a dynamic father-daughter team, sell their vegetables to top retailers in the country. This duo will soon be joined by Lerato’s sister, Luzzel, who is leaving her corporate job, to join their successful farming business.

They farm near Tarlton west of Johannesburg, where Angie Khumalo, host of African Farming, recently visited them. 

Freddie Ndindana, Technical Sales Representative for Corteva, was in the studio to give emerging farmers, who want to be as successful as the Bothas, some valuable advice. 

He mentioned the important role the process of scouting vegetable fields plays in managing pests and weeds. 

“Scouting is essential in helping a farmer monitor his fields for the presence of pests and diseases, or to pick up any other issues that may obstruct the growth of his crops and ultimately affect his yields.” 

Pests and weeds can become a vegetable farmer’s worst nightmare. Ndindana believes that spotting problems early and making swift decisions will save a farmer time and money, as it curbs the spread of the problem and minimises the impact of weeds or pests on the growth of the crops.

Scouting plays an integral part in a farmer’s pest management strategy because it enables you to observe and recognise plant problems early, before they become uncontrollable and cause economic loss.

This process will also help a farmer to use insecticides more cost-effectively and to apply these products only where necessary. It allows him to determine the level of pest or weed infestation and helps him to manage these outbreaks better to prevent economical losses. 

To start the scouting process, a farmer should develop a routine of systematically walking through the field or blocks and take samples of the leafy vegetables. The goal of sampling the leaves is to identify the pest species and assess the size of the damage. T

his can mean removing whole plants as samples from various locations throughout the field to inspect for the presence of pests or insects, and to observe their feeding activity.  It can be time consuming, especially when looking for smaller pests such as aphids that feed deep within some crops. Other pests like the cabbage looper and diamondback moth are spotted more easily. 

Scouting is ultimately about making management decisions. Once the field has been thoroughly scouted, a farmer will be empowered with enough information to determine the pest status of the field and to then decide on a method that will be the most economical or best to contain the problem.

For information: Call Corteva’s offices in Centurion, 012 683 5700 or in the Paarl, 021 860 3620.

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