Uttar Pradesh- In Uttar Pradesh, there are only three main crops exclusively cultivated in the state: paddy, wheat, and sugarcane. However, depending on the season, many other types of fruits and vegetables are also grown on a large scale. During their cultivation, farmers often resort to various pesticides available in the market to enhance their yield, which can have a direct impact on our health, soil, and the environment. To address this concern, The Mooknayak interviewed progressive farmers, general farmers, and agriculture experts in UP to determine which pesticides are ideal for health and the environment and which ones farmers should avoid.
Currently, the Kharif season is underway, featuring crops such as Cotton, Groundnut, Paddy, Millet, Maize, Sweet potato, Urad, Mmoong, Jowar, Arhar, Dhaincha, Sugarcane, Soyabean, Okhra, Sesame, Jute, and Flax, among others. In their pursuit of profitable commercial farming, farmers make extensive use of modern technologies, advanced chemical fertilizers, genetically modified seeds, and highly effective pesticides. This is driven by the need to cater to the increasing population's demand for grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Retired Colonel K.C. Mishra, a resident of Basti district, stands out as a remarkable example. After retiring in January 2007, at the age of 71, he transitioned to entirely organic farming on his 5-bigha (1.25-hectare) land. He achieved certification as an organic farmer in 2012-13. Today, Colonel K.C. Mishra is not only recognized as a progressive farmer in the district but also serves as a source of inspiration for other farmers. He proudly claims that no chemical fertilizers or market pesticides find a place in his fields. He cultivates all his crops using entirely organic methods. Colonel K.C. Mishra stated, "I ensure that not a single gram of urea or synthetic dye is used in my fields."
He further emphasized, "There is a natural or organic solution to every farming challenge, and there is a delicate balance in nature. When this balance is disrupted, whether in our bodies or in the crops grown on our land, it leads to adverse consequences."
Col. Mishra advocates the use of organic pesticides for safeguarding crops, vegetables, and fruits. He emphasizes that pests and plant diseases in fields can be effectively managed through various biological methods. Explaining the bio-biological approach, he states, "If a plant is under attack from insects, natural predators of those insects often exist in our environment. When a plant is infested, we can protect our fruits, vegetables, or crops by encouraging the breeding of these insect-eating organisms. This method ensures the safety of our crops, as the pests damaging the crops are consumed by these beneficial insects."
For instance, he illustrates that to protect his crops using a bio-organic method, he introduces other insects that prey on the ones infesting the crops. "By planting marigold flowers in proximity to the crops, the insects that are attracted to the marigolds also consume the pests affecting the tomato plants. When marigold flowers are planted alongside tomatoes, as the flowers attract pollinators, these beneficial insects migrate to the tomato plants."
In another example, Mishra highlights, "Providing a habitat for birds within your fields can also serve as a natural defense for your crops. By strategically placing 'perches' in various areas of your fields and embedding them in the ground, the birds will settle on them and consume the insects they encounter."
In addition to these natural methods of crop protection, Col. Mishra discusses the enzyme pesticide approach, which he employs in his fields. He explains that three types of enzyme pesticides—sweet, sour, and bitter—are produced and applied to safeguard crops, and these methods have proven to be highly effective.
Mishra elaborated on the production of bitter enzymes, stating, "Bitter enzymes are created using elements that animals won't consume. One of the most bitter components is Kalmegh (Chiraita), which is exceptionally effective and takes 90 days to prepare. To enhance its efficacy, we also incorporate drumstick leaves, garlic, and chili. Spraying this mixture on crops acts as a deterrent for insects, ants, and various diseases."
He further emphasized, "When this enzyme is sprayed on crops, it provides comprehensive protection. We employ it to safeguard all our crops, including mango and paddy plants."
In addition to this, Mishra shared an innovative solution for addressing zinc deficiency in the primary crop of the current Kharif season. When the leaves of the paddy plants turn yellow due to this deficiency, they can be protected by applying cow urine. In terms of land rejuvenation, he mentioned a novel biological research product called "Gau-Kripa Amritmam." Application of this product to the fields may not yield immediate results, but after 4-6 months, it leads to the elimination of 90 percent of harmful bacteria in the soil, contributing to long-term soil health and crop productivity.
Dr. Prem Shankar, an Agricultural Scientist specializing in Crop Protection at Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Basti, provided insights to The Mooknayak regarding the current state of paddy crops during the Kharif season. He noted that early ripening paddy varieties have already shown ears, while late-maturing varieties like black salt are still in the bud emergence stage.
Dr. Shankar pointed out the challenges faced in the farmers' fields, which include the presence of stem borers, odoriferous insects, green leafhoppers, and leaf folder pests. In low-lying areas or waterlogged fields, termite infestations have also been observed.
Discussing diseases in paddy, he mentioned a reduction in the incidence of false smut (false throat or haldia) disease compared to previous years, attributing it to increased awareness among farmers and timely application of medicines. He further explained that nutrient deficiencies in paddy plants result in leaves turning red, yellow, or brown due to zinc and iron deficiencies. To counter this, farmers can use zinc sulphate and ferrous sulphate. The recommended solution involves dissolving 3 grams of ferrous sulphate or mono zinc in a litre of water and spraying it.
In the case of the "false smut" disease, Dr. Prem Shankar recommended mixing 200 ml of Propiconazole, available in the market under names like Tilt or Xerox, with a sticker per acre and applying it as a solution through spraying to treat the disease.
Dr. Prem Shankar also advised farmers on a comprehensive approach to tackle situations where both insects and diseases, such as stem borers, blight, and hoppers, are affecting the crops. He suggested using a mixture of fungicides, insecticides, and stickers to obtain a dual benefit.
Furthermore, he recommended the use of additional pesticides like Fipronil and Imidacloprid, dissolved in a sticker solution, to effectively combat insects in paddy crops.
Dr. Prem Shankar highlights the Indian government's growing emphasis on natural farming and the ongoing discussions surrounding coarse grains. The focus on natural farming stems from concerns about the pollution of the environment and the deteriorating health of the soil caused by the continuous use of chemical pesticides. To address these issues, Dr. Shankar suggests shifting away from market pesticides and adopting alternatives like Bijamrit (used for seed purification), Ghanamrit (a fungicide), Agneyastra (for controlling crop-infesting insects), and Brahmastra.
He emphasizes the importance of proper crop maintenance during farming, noting that farmers sometimes neglect their crops, leading to disease outbreaks. Dr. Shankar advises farmers to be vigilant and proactive, as diseases can spread rapidly, affecting not only the affected crop but also neighbouring ones, particularly if left unattended when the disease reaches over 5 percent.
To prevent such situations, Dr. Shankar recommends seeking advice from agricultural scientists at the early stages of any crop disease outbreak. Furthermore, he advises farmers to refrain from consuming crops, fruits, or vegetables for at least a week after using any form of pesticide, as these substances are toxic and their effects can persist for 7 to 8 days, posing potential health risks.
In an effort to promote safe farming practices, Dr. Shankar specifically mentions certain pesticides that farmers are urged not to use on any crop, including Coragen and cypermethrin. These pesticides should be avoided due to their potential harm to the environment and health.
Ankit Verma, a farmer from Sekhui village in Bhanpur tehsil of Basti district, straightforwardly states that organic pesticides don't act as swiftly as store-bought pesticides in preventing crop damage. To address immediate threats, farmers often find it more convenient to use pesticides available in the market. As a result, they are naturally drawn towards conventional pesticides. Additionally, many farmers lack the knowledge required to prepare organic pesticides.
Shatrughan Shiva, a PhD student at the Department of Entomology, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Michigan State University, USA, originally from Uttar Pradesh, offers insights on pesticide usage in the agricultural landscape of the state. He emphasizes the importance of good agricultural practices for significantly increasing production, maintaining soil health, and preserving soil fertility in the long term. Uttar Pradesh is renowned for economic crops like sugarcane, rice, wheat, pulses, and potatoes, contributing significantly to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Nevertheless, farmers face numerous challenges stemming from climate change and pest-related issues. Insects play valuable roles in pollination, nutrient recycling, and biocontrol, with some insects preying on other smaller insects.
Shatrughan Shiva identifies plant pests as a major problem, stressing that some insects cause significant damage to crops. Proper education on pesticides, technical knowledge, and pest management are essential for crop protection and production, he states. He goes on to explain that small and marginal farmers still face significant challenges in pest management, despite government schemes and training programs aimed at educating farmers about the best pesticide application practices.
Swift pest detection and identification, damage assessment, and the selection of the most suitable treatment are crucial to prevent substantial losses. The use and application of pesticides should be precise and environmentally friendly. Furthermore, farmers should possess knowledge of various agricultural practices, including proper spacing during sowing, optimal fertilizer use, irrigation techniques, pest and disease management, harvesting, and post-harvest methods, all of which contribute to higher yields. Understanding agricultural market access and prices is also essential for achieving better returns on agricultural investments.
Shatrughan Shiva discusses the use of azadirachtin, a biopesticide extracted from the seeds of Azadirachta indica A. Juss, commonly known as Neem. This natural compound offers a wide spectrum of actions, acting as a repellent, antifeedant, and inducer of sterility in insects. Neem is a perennial tree native to India and belongs to the Meliaceae family. In recent years, the use of azadirachtin as a biopesticide has gained popularity in various other countries, including South Africa, Europe, and South America.
Azadirachtin has proven to be highly effective in controlling a range of pests, including whiteflies, caterpillars, mites, aphids, and other insects that damage crops. It also helps in preventing fungal diseases such as rust and mildew in plants. Importantly, azadirachtin is biodegradable, naturally degrading after application on field and horticultural crops, which helps prevent environmental and soil pollution caused by excessive pesticide use. Such pollution can have direct negative impacts on crop production and human health.
Shatrughan Shiva highlights the significance of documenting and sharing indigenous pest management techniques used by many farmers for sustainable agriculture. Moreover, he stresses the importance of checking weather forecasts for factors like rain and wind speed to avoid pesticide spraying when heavy rainfall and strong winds are expected within the next 48 hours.
For safe and effective pesticide application, Shiva recommends reading all instructions on labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS) provided by the manufacturing company before opening pesticide containers. Following government guidelines and regulations for pesticide application is crucial. Additionally, farmers should use personal protective equipment (PPE), including hand gloves, masks, and appropriate clothing, when handling and spraying pesticides. This practice helps prevent inhalation or skin contact with toxic substances, promoting better health and safety.
Shatrughan Shiva underscores the importance of regular insect monitoring as an essential tool in pest management. He warns that the indiscriminate use of pesticides can lead to the development of pesticide resistance in pests and degrade the quality of the environment. This, in turn, has adverse effects on non-target organisms, negatively impacting biodiversity.
To address these concerns, Shiva advocates for the use of natural enemies of pests, such as parasites and entomopathogens, in sustainable pest management. These methods are self-sustaining and non-toxic to the environment, making them more environmentally friendly and effective.
He also emphasizes the significance of adhering to pre-harvest intervals for pesticide residues in harvested produce. Many organizations, including the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Central and State Agricultural Universities, Krishi Vijayan Kendra, and NGOs, provide valuable training to farming communities on sustainable Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for better crop protection and production. Shiva encourages the promotion of bio-pesticides and botanical solutions to further enhance the sustainability of pest management practices.
1. Low environmental impact
Organic pesticides are usually derived from natural sources and are less likely to harm non-target organisms, contaminate soil or water, or persist in the environment.
2. Low risk to human health
Organic pesticides are often considered safer for human health because they are less likely to leave harmful residues on crops or contribute to pesticide-related health problems.
3. Minimum resistance development
Organic pesticides have multiple modes of action, making pests less likely to develop resistance than conventional pesticides, which often have the same target.
4. Supports sustainable agriculture
The use of organic pesticides is in line with the principles of sustainable agriculture and can improve soil health, promote biodiversity and maintain ecosystem balance.
5. Fewer regulatory hurdles
Biological or organic pesticides are subject to less stringent regulations than traditional chemical pesticides.
1. Low efficacy
Organic pesticides are generally less potent and slower-acting than synthetic pesticides, which may limit their effectiveness in controlling certain pest infestations.
2. Low residual activity
Organic pesticides degrade more rapidly, requiring more frequent applications to maintain pest control.
3. High cost
Organic pesticides are often more expensive than conventional pesticides, which can increase production costs for farmers.
4. Limited availability
Some areas may have limited access to different types of organic pesticides, making it difficult for farmers to rely solely on organic methods.
5. Variable efficacy
The effectiveness of biological pesticides can vary depending on environmental conditions, pest species, and timing of application.
1. High efficacy
Traditional insecticides are often more powerful and faster-acting, making them effective at controlling a wide range of pests.
2. Long residual activity
Traditional insecticides can provide long-lasting protection, reducing the need for repeated applications.
3. Low cost
Conventional pesticides are generally more economical, which can be an important factor for commercial farmers.
4. Wide availability
Traditional insecticides are widely available and offer a wide variety of options for pest control.
5. Precise targeting
Synthetic pesticides can be formulated to specifically target certain pests, minimizing harm to non-target organisms.
1. Environmental impact
Conventional pesticides can have harmful effects on the environment, polluting soil, water, and harming non-target species, including pollinators.
2. Human health concerns
The use of synthetic pesticides can threaten the health of agricultural workers, consumers, and residents living near treated areas due to exposure to harmful chemicals.
3. Resistance development
Pests can develop resistance to traditional pesticides, leading to the need for stronger chemicals and increasing the cycle of resistance.
4. Negative impact on soil health
Over time, the use of synthetic pesticides can degrade soil health and reduce biodiversity.
5. Regulatory Compliance
Conventional pesticides are subject to strict regulatory requirements, and their use may be restricted or restricted in some areas.
In summary, the choice between organic and conventional pesticides should be made carefully, taking into account the specific pest problem, environmental concerns, and long-term sustainability goals.