Guest blog contributed by MSSRF
Mr Natarajan and his family farm 5 acres of irrigated land in Neduvasal village in Pudukkottai District, Tamil Nadu. Like his father before him, he cultivates paddy, ground nut and pulses during the Kharif, Rabi and summer seasons. He has been growing BPT 5204 paddy, a super fine Ponni variety during the Samba season (October-January). This particular variety fetches a good price at market but is prone to various pests and diseases. During the Rabi season of 2014 there was outbreak of stem borer, causing visible symptoms. The pesticides recommended by the local agro-input dealer were ineffective and expensive. Mr Natarajan was worried whether he would get a profitable yield.
Fortunately, he read about the plant clinic programme on the Neduvasal Village Knowledge Centre (VKC) notice board. The VKC knowledge worker explained how an agricultural expert would look into the symptoms and prescribe safe methods for controlling the problem. Mr Natarajan was told to bring a sample of the infested crop to show it to the plant doctor for diagnosis.
The plant doctor, after carefully studying the feeding pattern of larvae, explained the concept of Integrated Pest Management and the methods for controlling the stem borer. To combat the acute outbreak, the plant doctor recommended spraying the insecticide Flubendiamide (Fame) at the rate of 20ml per acre and also applying Neem blended urea at a ratio of 1:5 during top dressing. The doctor also explained the preventive methods for this pest, such as applying nitrogenous fertilizers, following recommended spacing between the plants, Neem blended urea and beneficial egg parasites.
Mr Natarajan showed the prescription to his local ago-input dealer and obtained the correct insecticide. By following the application and dosage recommendations, the pest was controlled instantly. While in previous years the harvest tended to yield only 7 bags (420 kg), he managed to harvest 12 bags (720 kg) from the same area and enjoyed an additional profit of Rs 4500!
Mr Natarajan was extremely grateful to the plant doctors and the VKC team for explaining not only the control measures but also the entomology of these insects and preventative measures. When they heard how he managed to save his crop, many of his fellow paddy farmers approached him for advice on controlling the pest and he shared what he learnt from the plant doctors.
The M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) was established in 1988 with the aim to accelerate the use of modern science for agricultural and rural development for development and dissemination of technology to improve lives and livelihoods of tribal and rural communities. MSSRF partners with CABI to deliver the Plantwise programme in Tamil Nadu.