How to do Pests & Disease Management in Organic Agriculture?
There are many factors at play for a successful agricultural yield like the soil health, water management, crop health, nutrient management etc. These factors could only be useful if there is a proper system of protection from pests and diseases.
Health is Wealth, this line is commonly referred to the health of human beings but don’t you think this can even be applied to agriculture as well? Agriculture could be successfully completed if there exists a proper system of ensuring that the crops are safe from any external harm. What is the use of an efficient water management system, nutrient management and using good quality seeds if there isn’t a proper way to ensure the safety of our crops from pests and diseases which could eat up the fruits of our hard work? This is why pest and disease management becomes a crucial step for agriculture.
Here in this article we will study about the Management of pests and diseases.
But before that let us understand the importance of management of these and its types.
Importance of pest and disease management in the organic farming
Pests and Diseases are some of the major hurdles for the cultivation of crops. If ignored it can lead to catastrophic consequences in which significant economic losses can be incurred not only by the individual farmers, but also by the agriculture sector as a whole. Since the dawn of civilization, humans have been in search of various ways in which pests and diseases could be controlled or minimized so that it does not affect the total crop yield. There are several instances written in history where uncontrolled pests and plant diseases have wreaked havoc in a particular place leaving the settlers there in utter chaos.
Types of Pests and Diseases
Pest and diseases prevalent in the crop fields have posed a major barrier for the cultivation of healthy and surplus crops. It poses a major challenge not only for the farmers but also for all the scientists and employees related to the agriculture sector. Various crop protection systems have been developed for the prevention and control of pests which otherwise have the capability to annihilate an entire output of the farms, resulting in very heavy losses for the farmers.
Pests can be defined as, “Any organism or plant that poses a serious threat towards the humans and human concerned things.” This term is specially used for such organisms that damage crops, livestock and forestry.
Pests reduce crop productivity in various ways classified by the impacts they cause, they can be divided into various types:
- Stand reducers (damping off pathogens)
- Photosynthetic rate reducers (fungi, bacteria, viruses)
- Leaf senescence accelerators (pathogens)
- Light stealers (weeds, some pathogens)
- Assimilate sappers (nematodes, sucking arthropods)
- Tissue consumers (chewing animals, necrotrophic pathogens)
Without proper preventive measures, pesticides, host plant resistance and other non-chemical controls, 70% of crops could have been lost due to pests. Weeds produce the highest potential loss (30%) with animal pests and pathogens being less important (23 and 17 percent respectively).
A plant disease is a dynamic process where living and non-living entities interfere with the normal functions of a plant and prevent it from functioning to its maximum potential.
Pathogens like fungi, nematodes, viruses, viroid, nematodes or flowering plants can cause several infectious diseases. An infectious disease is capable of reproducing within or to other non-infectious plants.
Abiotic problems can also cause several plant diseases. Several abiotic factors like irradiation, water, temperature and nutrients can be a major factor. Extremes of temperatures, disadvantageous relationships between moisture and oxygen, toxic substances in soil and atmosphere and excess or deficiency of an essential mineral can be the cause of abiotic problems. These diseases are non-transmissible like the diseases caused by pathogenic organisms. Many valuable crops are extremely vulnerable to diseases and would have had a very tough time in the wild without the proper intervention by the human hands.
Some examples of pathogenic diseases are:
a.) Bacterial – Aster yellow, bacterial wilt, canker, crown gall, rot (subtypes – basal rot), scab, blight (subtypes – fire blight, rice bacterial blight)
b.) Fungal – Anthracnose, black knot, canker, clubroot, damping off, dutch elm disease, ergot, leaf blister, oak, scab (subtypes – apple scab), smut (subtypes – bunt, corn smut).
c.) Viral – Curly top, mosaic, psoriasis, spotted wilt.
Pests and diseases management in the organic farming
Organic farming tends to tolerate some pest populations while taking a longer term approach, allowing a certain level of pests and certain beneficial microorganisms can be very beneficial for organic farming. Pests and diseases are not a significant problem in the organic systems but, when left uncontrolled could incur a major damage on the crops. Pests do not actively result in damage or yield losses but after a certain threshold, they can produce huge economic losses.
Here we will discuss some major management practices for controlling pests & diseases which are:
- Effective planning
An effective plan for the control of disease and pest management must be created which must include the entire farm operation and with all the information available some basic components for any strategy that should be included are insect and disease avoidance, managing the growth environment etc.
- Crop Rotation
Crop rotation is found to be one of the most effective and useful techniques that are used throughout the world to minimize the pest problems.
In order to execute a successful crop rotation to reduce the pest in a crop field some points need to be followed:
- Incorporating green manure crops.
- Managing a frequency in which crops are grown within a rotation.
- Rotating early seeded, late seeded and fall-seeded crops.
- Rotating between various crop types, such as annual, winter , perennial, grass and broadleaf crops.
- Seed Quality
One of the most efficient means to prevent diseases in the plants is the use of high-quality seeds. The seed should be free from smut, ergot bodies and other sclerotia, and free of kernels showing symp Fusarium head blight infection. Seed analysis by any reputed laboratory can be very helpful in determining specific diseases prevalent seed supply.
- Weed management
Weed management is one of the most crucial aspects of pests and diseases management in organic farming. Even though weeds need to be regulated in a farm field to control their destructive side effects on the crop yield, their complete annihilation from the farm field may not be the best solution as the weeds provide shelter for the beneficial insects. Parasitic wasps, a kind of beneficial insects, are attracted to weeds with small flowers. Each field situation should be dealt with in an individual manner. The amount of weed present in farmland should be observed very carefully so that its positive effects can be enhanced and negative effects be reduced.
Farmers should carefully listen and observe the forecast about the various pests and disease infestations for crops each year. Agro-meteorological warnings and forecasts can help them in this way. Keeping oneself updated with the local news can be extremely beneficial in terms of taking measures beforehand to deal with pest infestations.
Tillage can be properly timed before seeding, after harvesting and during summer to reduce populations of insect pests such as cutworms and grasshoppers that spend a part of their lifecycle in the soil or stubble. Tillage can be a very helpful method to minimize pests in the farms by starving insects during the spring or during fallow or prevent adults from laying eggs in the soil.
- Seeding date
Planting the crops should be well planned beforehand so that the most vulnerable time of the plant growth does not correspond to the peak in the pest cycles. Early seeding reduces crop damages caused by grasshoppers, aphids in cereal crops, wheat midge in spring wheat, barley yellow dwarf virus in barley and wheat, powdery mildew in peas and pasmo in flax. Delayed seeding can have a beneficial impact in terms of reducing wireworms, cutworms in the cereal crops, hessian fly in the winter wheat, barley thrips ascochyta in the lentils etc.
The practice of intercropping where two or more crops are grown at the same time can significantly reduce the pest problems by making it very difficult for the pests to find a host crop. This technique also provides a habitat for the beneficial organism to thrive. Strip-cropping row crops with perennial crops often leads to better pest control.
Some other preventive measures are as follows:
- Resistant varieties of crops are ro be selected which could adapt to the local environmental conditions
- The seeds should be properly checked with pathogens or weeds and it should be taken from safe sources
- Proper Nutrient should be managed with an increase in organic matter
- Water should be properly managed and suitable soil cultivation methods should be applied
- Planting time and Spacing of the crops should be monitored, with proper sanitation measures
- Promote and Conserve natural enemies of pests such as fungi, bacteria, insect predators and insect parasitoids by minimizing the use of natural pesticides
- Enhance Floral diversity within the farm and also along the boundaries of the farm by applying hedges, beetle banks, flower strips and companion plants which would attract the natural enemies of the pests
- Pests can be controlled by mechanical means as well by applying light traps, colour and water traps, yellow sticky traps, fruit bagging
- Sulphur and Bordeaux mixture (Copper sulphate and lime) should used for controlling the development of diseases
- Acidic clays, milk and Baking soda are also used due to their fungicidal effect
Pests and diseases in agriculture act as a major barrier in the crop production in a developing country like India. With such a huge population in our country it becomes necessary for the people in the agriculture sector to implement new ways to reduce pests and diseases in the crops, so that the farmers can have a fruitful yield and minimize the losses making them economically sound.