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Monday, February 14, 2011

Avoiding Pest Damage

Avoiding Pest Damage in vegetable production is a serious matter to ensure best quality produce with better price. There are various pest in the vegetable area that able to multiply rapidly when condition are in their favour. For example a female cutworm caterpillar moth able to lay egg more than 1,000 in short time. Dry, hot and humid condition in Malaysia in certain months provide best condition for the pests to destroy our crop. If anything occurs to favour insects, such as increasing their food supply or eliminating their natural enemies - parasites and predators, then the numbers will increase alarmingly and the crop will severely damage. This article I would like to discuss about avoiding pest damage based on my farm experience as extension agent in one of the most active vegetable production area in Malaysia located in Johor and few references from gardening books.

Large scale vegetable growing in Malaysia are concentrated in Johore with 12,790 hectare produced about 163,750 metric ton in 2010. The production are about 32% of national vegetable production in Malaysia (534,370 metric ton in 2010). Most leafy and fruity vegetable grown in Johor are commercial scale for domestic and export market. The growers are expert in vegetable production activity from land preparation, pest control and marketing access. From my observation there are many pest attack vegetable production in Johor include mammals, insects, thrips, snails, flies, worms, beetle, moths and many others. The most common pests in vegetable production is Fruit Fly (Daucus spp), Cutworm (moths) and others. There are also beneficial pests in the farm as Predators (Dragonfly etc).

To study the pests population the farmers must know how to check the accurate forecasting and monitoring the Damage Threshold Level. The surveillance has to be conducted continuously especially during the best condition for the pest to multiply. farmers has to strategies the control of the pest for minimum cost and maximum output. My study shown that there are many practices carried out by Johor farmers to avoid from pest damage. Chemical Control among the popular and fastest way of reducing the severity of pest control. Under DOA extension program I always give and advise for commercial vegetable growers to minimise the usage of chemicals and apply Integrated Pest management approach. below are some of the practices that I always remind or vegetable growers in Johor:

1. Garden Hygiene
Good gardening practices have always including in keeping the farm clean and tidy. I always advise the farmers to collect the waste plant material, old plant debris such as stems, leaves, stump and unwanted produce to be removed and could be promptly destroy. Many occasion the the unwanted waste attract the insects to host and lays eggs as there are source of food. In carambola farms if the unwanted fruit abandoned on the ground are the best place for Fruit Fly to lay egg and multiply rapidly.

2. Resistant Varieties
There are many varieties in vegetables production and few of them are resistance to pest attack. Growing resistant varieties would solve many pests problems. Researcher should develop verieties planting material that are less susceptible to pests attack. There three main types of resistance to pests. Plants can tolerant and support large numbers of insects without being severely infected. This in not satisfactorily for vegetables becaise its permits the insects to do more damage and helps to breed larger population and difficult to control. Some plants are less attractive to insects or pests to others but the most important is the type of resistant is that where the pest not survive on other plants. The most extreme is that the plants are immune to the pests attack. Can researcher and Plant Breeder produce manu immune vegetable variety in Malaysia?

3. Crop Rotation
Changing of crop type every season able to stop the multiplication of pest community in the farm. The best crop rotation is from different crop families among the vegetable from Leguminaceae, Cucurbitaceae, Solanaceae, Cruciferae and many others. Ensure there is a proper crop rotation in the farm so that it break the pest life cycle chain. More elabotar system are possible but they are likely to affect the incidence of freely moving insects pests.

4. Intercropping
By planting few species intercropping able to create a barrier in the pest movement. Grow few type of compatible commodities of vegetable in the farm as a measure to reduce the pest attack. From my observation in Mersing District of Johor , most watermelon growers plant chili in between the watermelon row. The farmers claimed that if the pest and disease attack watermelon than the chili as security insurance to the farmers. Pest like aphids and beetles are able to reduce their multiplication habit by using intercropping system.

5. Plant Density
Plant density plays an important role in Good Agriculture Practices. The closer plant density of vegetable growing cause the moe damage in pest attack due to less of aeration, high humidity, less sunlight, weaker plants and other factor. My observation in Kg Buloh Kasap, Segamat Johor shown the bitter gourd planted with 1 meter distance less attack by fruit borer compare to these farmers planting with 0.3-0.4 meter distance. There is another view on growing high density crop claiming that the pest attack will be less due to so many food in the close planting density and less damage. But the pest population intat area may be larger for the next planting season.

6. Sowing and Planting dates
Adjusting the sowing and planting dates can avoid the worst periods of attack by some pests. Farmers in Malaysia adjust the planting scadule according to monsoon season, dry season and marketing suitability. The best leafy vegetable production is in dry hot weather by sowing in the netted structure because the ability for pests to attack during sowing period. Crickets, snails, ants among popular pests attacy young seedling in the nursery. Direct seed sowing on the beds has to be adjusted with correct planting dates to reduce the damage by pests attack.

7. Cultivation
Sometimes it is desirable to sow seed into 'stale' seedbed. For example the maggots in the beans seed fly feed on organic matter in the soils as well as on seed seedlings of few bean vegetables. It lays egg freely in the in freshly disturbed soil it has been found 10 days later to attack the crop.

This article discuss about by avoiding the pest damage in vegetable farming able to increase farmers income with high quality product. Rather than using single chemical spraying to control the pest , farmers may exposed to other method of reducing the damage of pest attack.

M Anem
Pct 11

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