08 November 2010
Scientists check at cassava plantations for signs of pests and diseases at a field in northeastern Thailand.
This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
Farmers know that if you reduce harmful insects and diseases in your crops, you have a chance for a better harvest. Today, many farmers and experts praise Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. IPM is a series of choices and methods to control insects, diseases and fungi. The program provides current information on how pests live and act in the environment.
A number of non-governmental and other organizations in many countries provide education in IPM. Farmers can get information meant for the needs of their own land. They can learn to recognize possible problems and how to plan crops to help prevent failures.
Paul Jepson heads the Integrated Plant Protection Center at Oregon State University. He says farmers who have attended field schools in Asia and Africa have increased the use of IPM. And he says this has cut pesticide use.
James Frederick is an IPM expert with Clemson University’s Pee Dee Research and Educational Center in South Carolina. He says one basic IPM method is to plant as early in the season as possible so that most of the crop will be in by the time a disease or pest arrives.
Not all insects are pests. Some are helpful. IPM programs help farmers learn to identify different kinds.
Another IPM method is rotating crops. Farmers do not plant the same crop season after season in the same soil. Instead, they may plant corn one season, soybeans the next, then corn again.
Brenda Vander Mey is also with Clemson University. She says farmers should not endlessly work the same soil without putting back some organic matter.
James Frederick says farmers need information about what crops are best to plant. He says that sometimes disease-resistant crops will reduce harvests. He said a last choice would be chemical control. But he suggests using management methods first.
Another possible method of pest control is using genetically modified plants. They have had their genes changed to contain a special characteristic, like resistance to certain insects.
Brenda Vander Mey says she believes improvements in plants can be very helpful. She noted the example of genetic engineering that makes rice more nutritious by producing beta carotene.
And that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report. I’m Bob Doughty. You can read and download our programs at voaspecialenglish.com.
Contributing: Jim Stevenson and Jerilyn Watson