Mwingi farmers urged to embrace integrated pest management strategies

Agricultural experts in Mwingi on Tuesday called on farmers to embrace Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies for sustainable crop growing and improved yields.

Speaking to KNA in his office, Kivou Ward Agricultural Officer Joseph Munyao said IPM is a sustainable approach to reduce pesticide use and risks of adverse effects on human health and the environment.

Munyao disclosed that increased environmental awareness has led to the need for sustainable agricultural production systems noting that IPM has become an essential component of sustainable agriculture.

The integration of the various control measures, where pesticides are used only as a last resort; stresses reliance on preventative practices, and balances the strengths of one practice against the weaknesses of another. This provides a more complete or holistic pest management approach, he said.

For instance, he singled out the use of available, suitable and compatible methods which includes planting disease resistant varieties, cultural methods such as planting time, inter-cropping, crop rotation and biological control to maintain pests below levels that cause economic damage and loss.

Munyao urged farmers to ensure proper weed control on their farms to create an environment which insects will find crops unattractive; therefore, by controlling weeds within their fields they may also avoid some insects.

The Agricultural Officer observed that in some cropping systems, the use of pesticides is important when some pests because of sheer numbers, continuous occurrence, low thresholds or food contamination issues dictate pesticide use.

However, pesticides should only be used as a last resort when all other management techniques, including preventative techniques, have failed or are no longer economical, he said.

For instance, Munyao said that a dense crop canopy shades the ground, makes emerging weeds less competitive and also preventing germination of more weeds and reduces weed seed production for subsequent years.

Planting certified seed ensures that the grower is not spreading new weed species. This is due to the fact that certified seed fields are inspected by trained people to determine that they are free of weed species as well as seed borne diseases, she said.

The officer said if a pest is found in a new area, quarantine officials may demand that a crop is sprayed or destroyed in an attempt to prevent the spread of a new species of pests.

Munyao said his office through extension officers has been creating awareness to farmers through free technical advice to upscale the intake of the IPM strategy.

He urged farmers to form cooperatives to air their grievances at the same time also increase sale volumes of their crops.

Munyao said farmers should form a cooperative society as it will not only ease the ministry’s efforts to reach them directly but also bring together farmers with common interests to maximize on profits.

He encouraged small-scale farmers to move away from the traditional farming methods and embrace new methods like formulating a cropping calendar which enables a farmer to identify the peak period therefore predict what is on demand in the market.

Farmers should make an effort to embrace working in small cooperatives as it encourages input acquisition, making of informed decisions to realize optimal profits, he said.

Munyao pointed out the importance of record keeping among farmers as it helps in monitoring the progress of individual farmers.

Source: Kenya News Agency