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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs