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Cabbage farmers in Fiji’s Sigatoka Valley have seen their incomes increase by 20–30 per cent since adopting the integrated pest management (IPM) farming technique.

The farmers are part of an ACIAR-funded project that is testing this effective and environmentally friendly approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices.

The initiative of Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Land Resources Division, has been implemented in collaboration with the Fiji Ministry of Primary Industries and led by Dr Michael Furlong of the University of Queensland.

Alternative control methods

Rajesh Raj, 33, of Raunitogo, Sigatoka — a farmer in the project — believes IPM is the way forward for farmers who want to excel in vegetable farming.

“We thought that application of pesticides was the only way to grow vegetables successfully and we used to spray on a routine basis without realising the effect this has on the environment and the health of consumers,” he said.
“But with this project, we realise that not all insects are bad and that pesticides are not the only means to control harmful insects,” he added.

Raj believes that farmers need to consider environmental and health issues before selecting the pesticides they use on their crops; unnecessary use of chemicals increases the cost of production.

IPM programmes use current, comprehensive information about the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property and the environment.

Nitesh Nand, Brassica project officer, commented on the farmers’ keen interest in the philosophy of IPM. “They have realised that it is important to observe the ‘waiting period’ after an application of pesticide before harvesting,” he said. He added that this project is changing the farmers’ behaviour as they have seen the benefit of following IPM principles.

Profit impacts

Another farmer, Rohit Sharma of Barara, Sigatoka, says that he has noticed a marked difference in his profit from English cabbage under IPM.

“Now I can save on chemicals and labour: two major expenses in growing English cabbage,’” he explained. “Another thing that I leant in IPM is the alternate use of chemicals, which prevents resistance building up in insects. We used to use same chemicals all the time and, as a result, they became ineffective. Then we kept on increasing the amount, but not much difference was noticed.”

The Brasicca project started in 2006 in both Fiji and Samoa and will soon conclude. After such positive results, however, another project will to start this year will extend to other vegetables and will include Tonga, Solomon Islands and Kiribati, as well as Fiji and Samoa.

This new ACIAR-funded Integrated Crop Management (ICM) project will take an holistic approach to crop farming, integrating lessons learnt from the previous Brassica project and collaborating with the World Vegetable Centre to intensify vegetable intercropping.

Source: Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva

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