CABI-led £1.6 million collaboration helps reduce China’s reliance on harmful pesticides

locust-Pixabay

A CABI-led project involving an international team of remote sensing and plant protection experts is helping China reduce its reliance on harmful pesticides to fight crop pests and diseases including yellow rust fungal disease of wheat and locusts.

The £1.6 million STFC Newton Agri-Tech Fund-financed project is leaving a lasting legacy in helping the Chinese Government reach its goal of zero increase in pesticide use by 2020 – adopting more sustainable controls, where possible, instead.

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“Our crops have answers”

PlantClinicMalawi

Kanyumbu village is a compact rural farming village in Lilongwe district in Malawi. Farmers in this village mostly produce maize, beans, and mangoes from a few trees scattered in their fields. In 2013, they received a new service from the Department of Agriculture; a plant clinic, with a plant doctor. They were informed that they could present any crop affected by pests and diseases, or that was simply ‘not looking normal’. The plant doctor could examine the crop samples, diagnose the problem and tell them what was ailing their crops. On the spot, the plant doctor could provide advice on how to manage the crop pests and problems.

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Can farms maintain productivity while reducing pesticide use?

Farming tractor plowing and spraying on field vertical
How would reducing pesticides affect productivity? (Photo: iStock Images)

A new UN report states that it is dangerously misleading to suggest that pesticides are necessary to achieve food security. Instead, the report recommends that farms reduce pesticide use and adopt sustainable practices that protect crops from pests by enhancing biodiversity and natural enemies. This agroecological approach eliminates reliance on, and exposure to, expensive and toxic chemical inputs, but would it really allow farmers to be just as productive?

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Pesticide use does not guarantee increased yields

Theobroma cacao © sarahemcc (CC BY 2.0 license)

The ongoing decline of pollinators has caused a global concern. Factors contributing to this decline include among others, use of pesticides, habitat destruction such as bush burning, bee diseases and pests (Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and Varroamite), and climate change.  Research in Ghana has revealed that cocoa and oil palm production is on the decline as pesticide use increase is killing the pollinating insects. The research, carried out by entomologists and plant scientists from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), was presented at a seminar on pollination in Fumesua, Ghana last month (16 April).

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