COMPONENTS OF NPM
Non-Pesticide Management (NPM) is a sustainable approach to agriculture. NPM offers a viable alternative to chemical-intensive agriculture and is beneficial to both the economy and the environment.
Not all insects attack crops. Many insects such as bees play an extremely critical role in agriculture. Spraying chemical pesticides and indiscriminately killing insects often severely distorts the ecological balance. NPM advocates for intelligent pest management. Bio-pesticides; an integral component of NPM, do not kill pests, but repel them. Concoctions made of locally available natural ingredients; bio-pesticides protect plants by warding off harmful pests. They act on pests in a non toxic manner and decompose quickly, thereby posing no threat to the environment. The commonly used bio-pesticide ingredients are extracts of neem, garlic, onion, turmeric, ginger, and cow urine.
Pheromone traps are a crucial component of NPM agriculture. Traps with capsules containing female pheromones (sex hormones) are placed at regular intervals in farms. Lured by the pheromones,the male pests are trapped and are thus prevented from mating. The male pests that escape the trap have residual female pheromones that attracts other males, thus hindering their chances of mating. These traps are especially effective when the population density of pests is low. Additionally, pheromone traps also indicate the intensity of pest attacks. The more the number of pests found in these traps, the higher is the intensity of the attack, necessitating the preparation of bio-pesticides of greater potency.
Bird perches are a simple, cost-effective intervention to thwart pests. Perches are simple resting structures for predatory birds. Made from sticks, these structures are placed at regular intervals in the field. Birds rest on these perches and while doing so, they prey on the pests in the field. Enabling the early bird to catch the first worm, as the saying goes!
Silt application in farms of low fertility has been a traditional practice followed by Indian farmers. In dry-lands, nutrient rich topsoil is washed away by running water and gets deposited in the form of silt in water storage structures. During summers, when these water bodies dry up, the silt is extracted and is scattered across the farm to form a nutrient rich layer of soil that enhances crop-productivity. This improved soil health forestalls the need for chemical fertilizers. The silt also helps improve the moisture retention capacity of the soil, thereby curbing runoff during monsoons.
Compost is a nutrient rich soil conditioner made by decomposing organic matter. We encourage our farmers to maintain an open compost pit to collect plant and animal waste. The collected waste is then allowed to breakdown into humus over a period of a few weeks with water added from time to time. Micro-organisms breakdown the organic matter into compost, which a rich source of nutrients. Compost is a cost-effective, environmentally non-detrimental alternative to chemical fertilizers and is integral to NPM agriculture. We do have a great sense of humus!
Our partners follow a community based participatory approach to help farmers adopt sustainable agricultural practices. It thus becomes necessary to document the various activities carried out by farmers. Our partner FPOs maintain season-wise farmer diaries that rigorously document various agricultural activities at the individual farmer level such as seed treatment, sowing, transplantation, application of allowed inputs and so on. These records are critical and bring in greater legitimacy to NPM.
FARMER FIELD SCHOOLS
The FPOs we work with conduct bi-weekly field sessions to train member farmers in crop-specific NPM practices. Based on the stage of the crop, skilled extension workers suggest specific NPM inputs/practices to individual farmers. These sessions are also critical to monitor the farmers' progress in adopting NPM practices and to identify farmers who have defaulted on NPM. The FPOs maintain a scrupulous record of these sessions that help them track the progress and results of their interventions.