Cotton IPM: Module 3

Module 3. Observing Rule Two – Farmers’ Roles

Module Overview

After finishing the last module you should now have developed an effective and practical IPM approach for your area. But, the question now becomes – So What? Your ideas will not make any difference if you cannot get this information to the farmers you serve and convince them to adopt some or all of your recommendations. That’s what the 2nd rule of IPM is all about. Just to refresh you memory, the second rule of IPM is that “Farmers should have ownership of the relevant knowledge so that they can understand the outcome of the pest management options available to them”.

In this module we want you all to think about making a difference with your IPM ideas. We will first look at some key characteristics of an effective IPM program and then at some examples of initiatives undertaken to get information to farmers and improve their ability to make rational, informed decisions about their pest management tactics. We will also ask you to review several general publications related to agricultural extension to give you additional ideas on how to bring about change at the farm level.

Lesson 3.1: Characteristics of Successful Cotton IPM Programs

There are many implications of embarking on a path leading to wide-scale IPM adoption. Below we have listed some basic factors to consider in planning an IPM program.

  • IPM is knowledge intensive: farmers need to be able to understand the options and the likely outcomes of adopting them. The farmers’ support team should be able to provide information about the insects’ life cycles, their natural enemies and management options and when to use them. They can be expected to help work out how the options fit into the operation of the farm. The basic concepts need to be modified by their own set of beliefs and experiences. It is logical for them to be blended with what we call the farmers’ indigenous knowledge.
  • Integrated crop management: if farmers are to ‘grow a healthy plant’ their soil and water management must be in tune with the needs of the crop. They may need help to achieve this. The IPM specialist needs to work with the agronomist or, indeed, may have to wear an agronomist’s hat too. Thus IPM specialists need to know about the plant and soil. We touch on this – but local knowledge is essential.
  • The IPM farm cannot stand alone: the enhancement of natural control processes is usually a key component of IPM. As most crops start as seed in bare ground, the natural enemies of pests are recruited from refugia located in the farm’s surroundings – which usually include other farms. If the neighbouring farms have been managed in such a way that natural enemies cannot survive, the IPM farm will not be very successful. Also, a significant amount of botanical diversity is required to provide nesting sites for birds and the refuges for parasites and predators when there are no crops in the ground. There is, therefore, special merit in thinking of the watershed as the IPM unit and group action as the decision-making modality.
  • Group action: it follows that a group of neighbouring farmers with the common goal of promoting sustainable production processes through rational pest management procedures are convenient groups for NGO support. Thus dissatisfaction with the technology available to them from other sources could lead them to the benefits of self help groups and farmers’ cooperatives – such as access to credit at a reasonable rate, the bulk purchase of inputs and enhanced negotiation possibilities when the product is sold.
  • Farmers may need help with economic assessment: Farmers often have difficulty in distinguishing between:
    1. High but expensive and unsustainable yields achieved by the inefficient (excessive) use of inputs, and
    2. Optimized yields that do not quite achieve the potential yield, but result, in the long term, in high profit margins through the economic use of inputs.
  • Long term benefits: many cotton growing areas are lacking in biological diversity as a result of various kinds of over-exploitation. This means that the restoration of diversity through agroforestry is seen as a complementary activity. Parallel benefits arise through tree related employment and resource provision (nursery maintenance, shepherding, bee keeping, fire wood provision, and soil amelioration and stabilization).
  • Successful cotton IPM depends, to a large extent, on the recruitment of beneficial insects and birds from the environment of the farm and the subsequent integration of a complementary pesticide regime. This means other farms, plus fallow land, common grazing land, temple groves, woodlots, scrub, roadside thorn bushes, household vegetable gardens, etc. are essential to the process. The implication is that IPM farms should be clustered (preferably in a watershed) and that there is a minimum area of landscape – say an additional 20-30 ha — 15% of the landscape – needed to support them. Thus, it is quite likely that there is a critical mass of farmers below which the benefits will be marginal or transient. In other words, the more farmers recruited, the better will be the outcome.

Lesson 3.2: Extending IPM Recommendations

Promoting IPM is not easy but, as we said, if you cannot get the needed information to farmers and convince them to adopt the associated practices then your work counts for nothing. Government, non-government and development agency and other farmer education efforts have been using a range of techniques over the years to get the word out and empower farmers. Much of what they do in this area is what has traditionally been known asAgricultural Extension – essentially a means of introducing new knowledge and ideas into rural areas in order to bring about change and improve the lives of farmers and their families. Extension is a process which occurs over a period of time and, through educational activities, works with rural people, supports them and empowers them to confront their problems more successfully.

In the promotion of IPM, some of the most recent success stories have come from strategic extension campaigns, participatory activities and traditional Extension approaches. Area-wide management approaches have been particularly effective for cotton pests in Australia and many individuals and organizations are now looking into the use of modern information and communication technologies to promote IPM.

We will go into more detail on these approaches in the following lessons.

Lesson 3.2.1: Strategic Extension Campaigns

Strategic extension campaigns (SECs) use mass media convey research findings and recommendations in a simplified form in order to motivate attitude change. SECs have been shown to achieve rapid impact because they reach large numbers of farmers in an area all at once, including remote locations normally not visited by extension trainers. One of the most effective SECs used to promote IPM practice is IRRI’s ‘‘Forty Days’’ SEC. Forty Days SECs are being fielded in several countries in order to reduce unnecessary insecticide use in early-season rice. Their main objective is to rectify farmers’ mistaken belief that leaf-feeding insects, particularly leaffolders, cause severe yield loss. This belief leads them to apply insecticides during the early stages of the crop even though they are not necessary. These applications may even trigger outbreaks of BPH and other secondary pests.

A brief overview of this SEC can be found on the site below.

Additional references on SECs

Lesson 3.2.2: Community IPM

Community IPM takes the farmer field school approach to a broader level and attempts to empower farm communities to organize and implement their own IPM activities. Instead of using trained facilitators to teach farmer field schools, farmer leaders become the main instigators of IPM training and promotion. Farmer groups are encouraged to analyze problems, design field studies and carry out experiments.

Additional information on community IPM can be found through the following links.

For additional information on IPM training you might want to also check out these sites.

Lesson 3.2.3: Traditional Extension Techniques

Although the Training and Visit system of Extension has largely been discredited as an effective way to promote IPM, good ideas can be found by looking at some of the tried and true Extension methodologies developed over the years. Below are links to two excellent resource sites with extensive information on various Extension methods and Extension training.

Lesson 3.2.4: Area-Wide Management

The concept of area-wide management for pests has captured the attention of growers as a means of managing pests in a coordinated manner, to reduce the over-all costs of pest control and to help manage insecticide resistance. The advantages of growers getting together to manage pests are many. The aim of area-wide management is to have neighbours in a region working in harmony rather than against each other, whether deliberately or inadvertently. An area-wide management strategy can be regarded as an integrated pest management strategy undertaken on a very large scale or area-wide – a farming systems approach to pest management. Cotton growers in Australia have joined together in area-wide efforts to control Helicoverpa and Heliothis and the approach is increasingly being used for other pest problems. Visit:

Information and Communication Technologies

A major problem rural populations have traditionally faced has been their inability to access needed information and knowledge. This has been the driving force behind both traditional Extension activities as well as the newer, more participatory approaches like the farmer field school and Community IPM programme.

But now, with the explosion of new information services, even remote areas in many developing countries are able to take advantage of global information sources. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are, more and more proving their value in addressing the information and knowledge needs of rural people. While reaching farmers with these tools is still not widespread, they are being successfully used to deliver information to and from intermediary information providers such as universities, government offices, telecenters, NGOs and libraries.

The final section on Information and Communication Technologies has no links, but is an area which has expanded since the original AgLearn online courses were created. Use of cellphones and access to Open Educational Resources such as AgLearn has increased, giving farmers and their advisers improved access to a host of information. These changes not only relate to production issues such as pest management, but information on marketing, international issues such as price, weather predictions, new varieties, sources of inputs and much more. Communication technologies now allow access to podcasts and user forums that remove people in rural areas from the former situation in which their insularity meant they were unable to find out about wider issues that might influence their decision-making. AgLearn is part of this expansion of access, and as more farmers become able to make use of the internet, should prove to be even more beneficial in enhancing the knowledge, attitudes, and working practices of farmers through the promotion of sustainable agriculture practices.