News / Asia

Hunger In Focus: Reducing Insects to Increase Crop Yield

Two-Thirds of the world's one-billion hungry people live in Asia. Through this series of reports, VOA aims to draw attention to the problems of hunger in Asia as part of World Food Day - 16 October.

Scientists check at cassava plantations for signs of pests and diseases at a field in northeastern Thailand.
Scientists check at cassava plantations for signs of pests and diseases at a field in northeastern Thailand.

Insects have long plagued farmers as they try to grow food for themselves and others.  History is filled with tales of crop failures because of pests.  Chemicals have been widely used for decades to combat the problem.  But the practice is not always friendly to the environment or healthy for those who eat treated produce.

An approach called Integrated Pest Management is helping to address these issues and has successfully increased crop production in Asia and elsewhere.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, as an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices.

IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment.

Brenda Vander Mey is a professor of Sociology at Clemson University who specializes in social aspects of farming.  "Integrated pest management programs thrive in much of Asia," she said.  "The integrated pest management has been extremely successful for decades now in Indonesia.  Crop rotation is one of the strategies for integrated pest management.  It is one of many.  But what you cannot do is just continuously work soil and work soil without putting something back, some organic matter."

IPM is not a single pest control method but, rather, a series of pest management evaluations, decisions and controls.  IPM also varies from organic food growing, which applies many of the same concepts as IPM, but limits the use of pesticides to those that are produced from natural sources.

James Frederick, a professor at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center in Florence, South Carolina, explains some of the basic steps used in IPM.  "They might be able to plant early.  If you know a disease comes in or an insect comes in late in the growing season, so you try to plant early as you can so most of the crop will be made by the time disease or insects come in.  You can do crop rotation.  It is a good example of a basic practice you can do to help with weed control."

Not all insects, weeds, and other living organisms require control.  Many organisms are innocuous, and some are even beneficial. IPM programs work to monitor for pests and identify them accurately.

Professor Frederick says farmers also need to know what is best to plant.  "Sometimes when you develop a variety resistant to a disease, you will lose a little bit of yield.  So normally you would not plant that variety that has that disease resistance unless you have the problem," he said.  "If you know you are going to have a problem, then you are going to plant that variety that is resistant to that disease.  Then of course the last option is some sort of chemical control.  But we try to tell our farmers to use management first and chemicals second," Professor Frederick said.

Genetics is also helping to play a role in developing crops that are more resistant to disease and insects.  But Professor Brenda Vander Mey says modified crops are not universally welcomed.

"There is a horrendous debate about the role that biotechnology or engineered foods and foodstuffs could play in decreasing hunger, food insecurity, etc.  The big issue has become should it have a role given concerns that people have over genetically engineered food and foodstuffs and their potential impact on environment and people.  So the debate just continues in that area, with some countries less comfortable than others with adopting the more genetically engineered germ plasmas, etc. for production."

But she adds improvements in plants can be very beneficial.  "It could be the engineering is such that it is bringing say more beta carotene into the rice.  Or it could be engineered such that the plants are more pest resistant than previously," Vander Mey said.  "And on balance, I think that people are far more comfortable with genetically engineered foods that stick within their own category."

Integrated Pest Management is a complex pest control process, and specific plans need to be developed to suit specific needs.  One IPM definition does not apply to all foods and all areas.

Professor James Frederick says even small farmers can benefit simply by paying attention to their immediate environment.  "One basic and easy practice for integrated pest management is to go out there and scout and see what the problems are rather than say 'ok, it is about that time of the year when something should show up.  Therefore I am going to go out and spray whether it is out there or not,'" he said.

In the United States, food grown using IPM practices is not usually identified in the marketplace similar to organic food.  Produce grown using IPM methods do not have a national certification as the U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed for organic foods.


Jim Stevenson

For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid