There is no doubt that pests and diseases, which can cause significant damage to crops, must be controlled if farmers are to continue in the production of food. Equally, air, water and soil health are agricultural imperatives that must be balanced against the need to control pests and diseases in crops.
Praveen Dwarika of Lemang Agricultural Services says pest damage to crops can cripple farmers financially, especially if the entire crop is wiped out. “A critical component of protecting the crop is early disease detection, and for this, diligent regular scouting is essential,” he says.
The early warning system means farmers can spray to control pests and diseases before they cause major crop losses. Responsible use of chemicals should be a priority to farmers, Dwarika explains. “Farmers should be familiar with the active ingredients in the products they use and know what the side effects of the actives are.”
Integrated pest management (IPM) is gaining traction as a strategy farmers can use to protect their crops without causing damage to the environment. IPM aims to keep pest and pathogen populations low through the planting of disease-resistant crop varieties that require less pesticide application. The creation of insect refuges in and around crop fields protects beneficial insects and lures away harmful insects.
IPM encourages biodiversity and steers away from monocropping. Good crop husbandry practices – including crop rotation, planting cover crops, and managing soil nutrients and water – are essential for healthy high-yielding crops. Encouraging soil microbes and insect populations is part of building soil health, and no-till planting maintains the structural integrity of the soil. Healthy soil and plants are the best protection against disease.
In addition, farmers should be aware that pesticides and fertilisers can pollute underground and surface water. “This threatens the health of downstream communities relying on that water, and highlights the need for responsible chemical use,” says Dwarika. There are opportunities for farmers to grow quality crops and play a key role in restoring damaged ecosystems to their previous function, with benefits for the greater community.
For more information, visit www.afgri.co.za/lemang-agricultural-services/