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 Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes 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.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More