Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Did You Know? By D.P. Agrawal

Question: Did you know that simple traditional techniques could control difficult pests and save a lot of money?

Eighty-year-old Mr Bitchappa's advice was almost easy beyond belief: shake the infamous podborers off pigeonpea plants, and save US$ 310 millions annually , the estimated worldwide pigeonpea crop losses due to the podborer Helicoverpa. Mr Bitchappa's fellow farmers in Hamsanapalli village, in Mahabubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh (AP), had come to him because pigeonpea losses in their village were becoming intolerable -- between 20 and 100 percent of their crops were lost to the deadly podborer.
Over 4 million ha worldwide, mainly in southern Asia and eastern Africa, are under pigeonpea. This grain legume is a major source of inexpensive protein (20%), fodder, and fuel in the tropics and the subtropics. By 1993, 100% of pigeonpea farmers were using chemical control in India. Applying 3-6 sprays of chemicals became common practice. While this worked fine to start with, soon yields began to decline, and the high insecticide investment began to hurt farmers. Enter Mr Bitchappa.
In a farmer-participatory discussion organized in Mr Bitchappa's village by the NGO, Research in Environment, Education and Development Society (REEDS), the village elder recalled how, in the pre-insecticide days, pigeonpea plants were gently shaken, and podborer larvae dropped off the plants. The larvae were collected in a sheet which was dragged along the ground in the interspace between rows of pigeonpea plants. A few hens were allowed to follow this sheet, and the plump worms provided a high-protein feast for the voracious birds!
However, private agencies were skeptical about the applicability, efficiency, and economics of this 'shake-down' technique. So, during the 1998-1999 season, this indigenous technology was evaluated in a 15-ha research watershed at ICRISAT-Patancheru, with support from IFAD and in collaboration with ICAR, ANGRAU, MAU, and NGOs under the coordination of CWS.
The results were spectacular: when plants were 'shaken down' an 85% reduction in insect population was achieved, while the larval population in the adjacent, chemically sprayed plots remained high throughout the cropping period. The 'pigeonpea shake-down' wins hands down on the cost-front too: it costs just Rs 280 (US $ 6) per hectare to have 7 people to shake pigeonpea plants, and collect larvae; and each chemical spray costs Rs 500-700 (US $ 11-16) per hectare.
This technology, initiated at a few locations during 1997, rapidly spread to more than 100 villages involving several thousand farmers in three states of southern India within 2 years. All these farmers continue to use the method. "We are working with farmers, NGOs to include this simple indigenous cultural practice as a critical component of our IPM strategy for pigeonpea," says ICRISAT entomologist G V Ranga Rao.

Check out the captioned site. It has a lot of useful information !


Blogger Narayanan Venkitu said...

Hats off Bitchappa..!! Can this be used in other plants as well?

Very interesting concept...! And a good organic way to raise crops.!

Sat Sep 10, 09:08:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Jayan said...

@Narayan : Just reminds me of the NASA research into developing a pen that can be used in space. It seems the Russians took the logical route ans used a pencil instead.

BTW, dont know if that was an Urban Legend !!

Fri Sep 16, 11:01:00 AM 2005  

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