8: Plant protection and pest control
Protecting plants from pests, diseases, and predators is part of any agricultural system. Start by promoting healthy soil which grows strong, resistant plants, and learn about timing and conditions of disease and pest outbreaks. Attention to cultural controls, such as field preparation and correct time of sowing and harvest, can prevent disease or avoid insect outbreaks. Diversity of crops provides security from major losses. Commercial pesticides may be too costly or risky without controlled application or protective equipment, and disruptive of beneficial insects.
Close and frequent observations of plant health and other organisms in the field are instructive for the newcomer to tropical agriculture. Learn to distinguish beneficial and harmful insects. Discuss your findings with farmers, and experiment with locally-used control strategies to determine effectiveness. The best control is to prevent an outbreak if possible, and to use treatments of minimal toxicity when necessary. This chapter collects some of the ideas shared with ECHO through the years on prevention and control of disease, insect and small pests, and larger animals which damage crops in the field. ECHO is always looking for more ideas on these subjects from the field; send us what you learn for future networking through EDN.
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