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AESA based IPM: Towards Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Agriculture

Hitul Awasthi
Hitul Awasthi

World Environment Day, 2020 - This year it is being celebrated with the theme “Celebrate Biodiversity” and will be hosted by Colombia in partnership with Germany. The day provides a global platform for all the stakeholders to raise awareness about environmental issues and promote sustainable development. 

Biodiversity is the multitude of living things that make up life on Earth. It encompasses the 8 million species on the planet and the ecosystems that house them such as oceans, forests, mountain environments and coral reefs. 

But, we are losing biodiversity, as species are getting extinct at a rate 1,000 times greater than at any other time in recorded human history. 

Biodiversity provides us various ecosystem services ranging from fertile soil, to variety of foods to eat, including fruits and vegetables. It is the foundation of most of our industries and helps regulate climate through carbon storage and regulating rainfall. 

Conventional Agriculture Impacts 

(Source: McLaughlin and Mineau, 1995) 

Agricultural activities such as faulty tillage, drainage, intercropping, rotation, grazing and non-judicious use of pesticides and fertilizers have significant adverse impacts on biodiversity. Certain management techniques can induce detrimental habitat changes that can cause significant shifts in species composition. 

Due to large land area devoted to agricultural activities, it is often identified as one of the largest contributor to the loss of bio-diversity world-wide.  

Sustainable Agriculture

(Source: Pretty, 2008) 

Sustainable agriculture aims at development of technologies and practices that do not have adverse effects on the environment, are accessible to farmers and leads to enhancement of food productivity.  

The ecological management of agro-ecosystem addresses energy flows, nutrient cycling, population-regulating mechanisms and resilience to adverse changes. 

Agro-ecology:  

An integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of food and agricultural systems. It seeks to optimize the interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment while taking into consideration the social aspects that need to be addressed for a sustainable and fair food system (by FAO). 

The 10 elements of agro-ecology are: 

(Source: Food and Agriculture Organization) 

1. Diversity - Ensures food and nutrition security, while conserving, protecting and enhancing natural resources 

2. Synergies – Supports production and multiple ecosystem services

3. Efficiency – Agro-ecological practices produce more using less external resources.

4. Resilience – Enhances resilience of people, communities and ecosystems 

5. Recycling – Lowers economic and environmental costs

6. Co-creation and sharing of knowledge – Agricultural innovations respond better to local challenges when  they are co-created through participatory processes

7. Human and social values – Protect and improves rural livelihoods, equity and social well-being

8. Culture and food traditions – Supports healthy, diversified and culturally appropriate diets

9. Responsible governance – Sustainable food and agriculture requires responsible and  effective governance mechanisms

10. Circular and solidarity economy – Circular and solidarity economies that reconnect producers and consumers provide innovative solutions for living within our planetary boundaries.

AESA based IPM

Agro-ecosystem analysis (AESA) based Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a new approach where, extension functionaries and farmers analyzes the field situations with regards to pests, defenders, soil conditions, plant health and the influence of climatic factors and their relationship, for growing a healthy crop.   

Advantages of AESA over ETL:  

In Economic Threshold Limit (ETL) the due recognition of the role of natural enemies in decreasing pest population is ignored. In ETL based IPM, natural enemies, plant compensation ability and abiotic factors are not considered. Thus, leading to execution of unsustainable management practices by farmer. 

While, in AESA based IPM emphasis is given to natural enemies, plant compensation ability, abiotic factors and P: D ratio. An holistic and sustainable approach is adopted for management of pests.  

The basic components of AESA are: 

1. Plant health at different stages 

2. Built-in compensation abilities of plants 

3. Pest and defender population dynamics 

4. Soil conditions 

5. Climatic factors

6. Farmers past experience 

AESA based IPM

(Source: NIPHM) 

  • Grow Healthy crop – 

1. Select a variety resistant to major pests and healthy seeds and planting material

2. Seed/ planting material treatment with recommended pesticides especially bio-pesticides

3. Follow proper spacing, irrigation, crop rotation and soil health improvement practices

  • Observe field regularly –

Monitor field at least once in a week and make decisions based on field condition and P: D ratios. 

  • Plant Compensation ability – 

Compensation is defined as the replacement of plant biomass lost to herbivores and has been associated with increased photosynthetic rates. 

  • Understand and conserve defenders –

Observe activity of natural enemies in agro-ecosystem and avoid use of broad-spectrum pesticides. 

  • Insect zoo – 

Insect zoo concept can be helpful to enhance farmer’s skill to identify beneficial and harmful insects. Stored insects are observed for certain time, to determine whether the test insect is a pest (feeds on plant) or a predator (feeds on other insects). 

  • Pest: Defender ratio (P:D ratio) – 

Sweep net, visual counts etc. can be adopted to arrive at the numbers of pests and defenders. Whenever the P: D ratio is found to be favourable (i.e., 2:1), there is no need for adoption of other management strategies. In cases where the P: D ratio is found to be unfavourable (<2:1), the farmers can be advised to resort to inundative release of parasitoids/predators depending upon the type of pest.   

Use of bio-pesticides and bio-chemicals such as insect growth regulators, botanicals etc. can be relied upon before resorting to synthetic chemical pesticides. 

  • Make Farmers experts in crop management – 

Farmers have to make decisions based on observations and analysis, as they are 

1. Capable of improving farming practices by experimentation 

2. Can share their knowledge with other farmers

  • Data recording –

Farmers should record data in a notebook and drawing on a chart   

1. Keep records of what has happened 

2. Help us making an analysis and draw conclusions 

AESA and farmer field school (FFS) –  

AESA is a season-long training activity and is always learner-centeric, participatory and relying on an experiential learning approach and therefore it has become an integral part of FFS.  

Farmers can learn – 

  • Identification of pests and their nature of damage 

  • Identification of natural enemies 

  • Management practices for pests 

  • Water and nutrient management 

  • Influence of weather factors on pest build-up 

  • Role of natural enemies in pest management

National Institute of Plant Health Management, Hyderabad – 

Intensive use of ecosystems to enhance productivity can affect agro-ecosystems through soil erosion, water depletion/contamination, biodiversity loss and disruption in flow of ecosystem services, which will have a bearing on plant health and biosecurity.  

Plant Health Management is vital for sustainable agriculture, food security, food safety, agro-based industries and economy of countries.  

NIPHM has designed trainings on AESA-based PHM, in conjunction with Ecological Engineering (EE) for pest management. The institution is popularizing these concepts and is committed to create a pool of master trainers who in turn are expected to popularize AESA based PHM in conjunction with EE for PM among farmers.  

NIPHM organizes 21 days Training Programme on "Fundamentals of Plant Health Management for Plant Health doctors" to create a pool of master trainers.  

It provides understanding of significance of the P: D ratio, plant compensation ability, insect zoo studies etc. 

Conclusion

Non-judicious use of agrochemicals and faulty agronomic practices, have caused great damage to the biodiversity. AESA based IPM aims at promotion of the understanding of agro-ecosytem in a holistic manner, so that most effective and environment friendly methods are applied for pest management. 

Keywords – World Environment Day, Sustainable Agriculture, Biodiversity, Agroecosystem, Integrated Pest Management, Farmer field school 

References

McLaughlin A and Mineau P. 1995. The impact of agricultural practices on biodiversity. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment55:201-212. 

Pretty J. 2008. Agricultural sustainability: concepts, principles and evidence. Principles of agricultural sustainability363:447-465. 

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