Integrated pest management
The development of sustainable farming systems demands a holistic approach that encompasses the best practices for growing healthy and profitable crops, including the use of crop protection inputs where they will deliver beneficial results.
Farmers are to be encouraged to take an integrated approach to pest and crop management in order to increase yields and promote sustainable agriculture. They are under pressure to produce high quality crops for their customers – mainly supermarkets and food processing businesses. Farmers must also respond to consumer concerns about pesticide residues in food, particularly in fresh fruit and vegetables. Maximum residue levels are set by national governments. Major food companies require certification to the GLOBALGAP (formerly EUREPGAP) standards on good agricultural practice, including those on pesticide use.
Crop protection products protect yield by controlling insect, weeds and disease. Seed products improve yields by enhancing the composition of plants or optimizing the production of useful parts of the crop. Current seed care technology protects vulnerable seeds and seedlings from pests and diseases. By coating seeds with the correct amount and combination of chemical products, young seedlings are protected from insects and diseases as they emerge from the seed. Seed care technology has played a significant role in raising the productivity of farming with minimal impact on the environment. Stronger plant varieties – developed through cross-breeding and biotechnology – are vital to improve yields and meet the growing demand for food, feed and fuel. Individual genetic traits responsible for a particular plant characteristic can be isolated using biotechnology and then transferred to new varieties through genetic modification(GM). The traits can be used to enhance plants’ nutritional value and to strengthen crops and boost yields by improving plants’ built in resistance to disease, pests and harsh climates.
Effective IPM (Integrated Pest Management) and ICM (Integrated Crop Management) rely far more on accurate crop forewarning of risk and evaluation of the best course of action. New decision support systems are essential tools to assure the most judicious use of crop protection inputs. The rapid global uptake of the latest communication tools, including the internet and mobile phones, has revolutionized the speed with which information can be delivered to growers.
Early warning of impending disease infection allows growers to make better use of preventative fungicides at lower application rates.
New disease prediction models are being developed that will prove essential in the fight to prevent Soybean rust decimating the crop. Losses from the first outbreak of Soybean rust in the USA could reach up to $1.3 billion according to estimates from the United States Department of Agriculture. The cost is predicted to rise to $2 billion in subsequent years, depending on the severity of the disease, weather conditions and the effectiveness of growers in controlling the disease.
US fears are based on the experiences of growers in Brazil where, left untreated, Soybean rust prematurely defoliates the crop in as little as nine to ten days. This results in a 60% to 100% yield loss. However, where growers acted early and decisively, the disease is effectively controlled. Record Soybean crops are predicted where more than 90% of the area has been treated with fungicides.
Once the disease has gained a foothold in the Southern states, experts warn, it acts as a reservoir of infection blowing north each season. With disease prevention shown to be the only really effective measure to protect yield, researchers and disease pathologists are monitoring for the presence of spores and assessing the weather conditions that could encourage the disease. When both factors are prevalent, growers will have advance warning of the need to protect the crop. Warnings are posted on the website www.soybeanrust.com and can be sent direct to growers through mobile communication routes.
Early warning of impending disease infection allows growers to make better use of preventative fungicides at lower application rates. If disease is identified in its early stages in the lower crop canopy application rates will need to be higher and more aggressive curative fungicides employed. When disease has become established in the crop, it will effectively be too late to protect the leaves and the yield.