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Crop protection and economy of country

The losses caused by the diseases in crops are variable but their cumulative effect is considerable

By M. Mithal Jiskani
June 25 - July 01, 2001

Crop protection is one of the major components in achieving higher yields of the crops. The better quality of food, clothing, shelter and some essential drugs, which are dependent directly or indirectly upon growing plants, rather than, the maintenance of human life and animals is not possible. Crop protection is concerned with the health and productivity of growing plants. The disease losses are hazards, which can be minimized only by a continuous process of research and education. To evaluate and solve new disease problems, is the responsibility of the crop protection. To work out practicable procedures, which growers can adapt to their needs and in a result, the farmers must be benefited, is the aim of crop protection.

The plant disease can be defined as any disturbance or deviation of a plant that interfere with its normal structure, function or economic value. The diseases may be infectious or non infectious. In this case living organisms, called pathogen, like fungus, usually cause bacterium, nematode and insect pest, regarded as infectious diseases of all diseases. The diseases may also be caused by other factors like physiological disorders. That includes low or high temperature, unfavourable oxygen and soil moisture relations, injurious atmospheric gases or chemical injury, lightening injury and deficiencies or excesses of nutrients. The viruses are sometimes considered living sometimes as non living, though are taken up independent existence of their own. Therefore, plant diseases caused by viruses are sometimes regarded as infectious, and sometimes as non-infectious.

Any injury or abnormality brought about by insects belongs in the field of entomology. The remaining causes of all disturbance and deviations are taken place in the field of plant pathology. The plant pathology constitutes a big sector of plant protection, is a study of nature, causes and prevention of plant diseases.

Plant diseases were present and well established on earth long before human being established himself. The human being is facing with the problem of protecting neighbouring crops from diseases since started settled agriculture to till. The reason for man's problem is that both are competing for the same resources needed for food, clothing, shelter and other requirements for life survival. Plant diseases damage the crop, reduce the yield, lower the quantity and quality, increase the cost of production and require cash outlays for material and equipments for control measures. Besides, chemicals used for disease control, are poisonous for human being and are main cause of environmental pollution.

The importance of plant protection in relation to crop production can be realized from the fact that in several crops the yields are not of the desired level. Among the various factors responsible for low yields, plant diseases are prominent and cause losses in world's crop production amounting to many million rupees, which comes next only to losses caused by insect pests.

The losses caused by the diseases are variable but their cumulative effect is considerable, and in certain cases fields have been found to show as much as 100 per cent damage. The record showed that there has been severe attack of black stem rust of wheat and phyllody of sesame in 1906-1908 at Mirpurkhas, whip smut of sugarcane in 1913-15 at Larkana, Wilt and storage rot of potato and wilt of gram in 1914-15 at Karachi, early blight of potato and long smut of sorghum in 1915-16 at Mirpurkhas, ring rot, tip burn and severe attack of early blight of potato in 1918-21 at Karachi, Gram rot and grain smut of sorghum in 1918-22 at Jacobabad, red rot of sugarcane and wilt or root rot of cotton in 1921-22 at Sukkur, root rot and boll rot of cotton in 1922-24 at Sakrand, blight of rice and grain smut of sorghum in 1927-30 at Larkana and Dadu are some examples from previous record. While, during last two decades, some of the above shown diseases as well as wilt and viral diseases of chilies and tomatoes, mildew of cucurbits, mango, and jujube, banana bunchy top virus (BBTV) and cotton leaf curl virus (CLCV) also take a heavy toll and the losses in production.

The cotton crop record revealed that root and boll rot diseases of cotton were considered as most severe and destructive in past. Cotton leaf curl virus found to be most important disease since last decade. This disease was first time recorded in 1967 at Multan on cotton plants. In Sindh, this disease was first reported during 1996 at Ubauro, District Ghotki. Now it is reached up to New Saedabad, District Hyderabad during last year (1999-2000). It was considered a minor disease until 1987, but in 1991-92, it infested 35,000 acres and 294,000 acres during 1992-93 causing a huge production and monetary loss to the nation.

However, it is quite difficult to present accurate estimates of the losses due to diseases, because it varies from year to year and from one region to the other. The aim to elaborate all above actual and potential hazards, damages and losses was determine crop diseases and it is becoming obvious that: now, it is upon the crop protectionists including plant pathologists and entomologists as well, to design and formulate ways or means to combat all enemies of the crops, so that the losses caused to the crops may be minimized. By now, it is very easy to decide that what is role of crop protection in agriculture? What should be our priorities for identifying the crop enemies, treating the suffering plants, and understanding the nature of diseased plant?

However, Table 1 present yield per hectare of some of the most important (major) crops of Pakistan. The causes of fluctuations in production may be many more, but diseases and insect pests as well as weeds may also could not be ignored, neglected and or regretted, because they also cause variable loss time by time to the crops. A major quantity of pesticides are used for the control of major pests of cotton, viz. white fly, jassid, thrips, mite, American boll worm, pink boll worm and spotted boll worm. White fly becomes top most important cotton pest, because the disease cotton leaf curl virus (CLCV) transmitted by it. Other field crops as well as vegetable and fruit crops are also not free of insect pests or diseases. Most of the growers are of the opinion that these all enemies could only be controlled by use of pesticides. The wheat and some other crops were felled free of pesticides, but nowadays they are also in target due to common use of weedicides. Therefore, I think no any crop is free of (safe to) pesticides. Table 2 indicates off take and imports of pesticides. Pesticide is a combination of two words: 'pest' and wide'. Pest means the agent that cause any disturbance, deviation or abnormality in normal function and structure of the crop and cause loss. The word, wide' means poison, which is used for killing or controlling the cause of disease or any enemy, which cause damage to the crops. Insecticides are used against insect pests. The fungicides against fungi and nematicides against nematodes, while antibiotics are used to control bacteria. The herbicides or weedicides are applied against herbs or weeds, because they may compete with crops for nutrition as well as for other requirements and sometimes becomes a harbour for flies and other insects. These all (Insecticides, fungicides, nematicides, antibiotics and herbicides or weedicides) are pesticides.

Table 1: Yield (Kg per hectare) of some of the most important (major) crops of Pakistan.

Year

Wheat

Rice

Sugarcane

Maize

Gram

Cotton

1990-91

1.841

1.543

40.770

1.401

485

615

1991-92

1.990

1.546

43.371

1.419

514

769

1992-93

1.946

1.579

43.024

1.364

344

543

1993-94

1.893

1.826

46.144

1.380

393

488

1994-95

2.081

1.622

46.747

1.481

524

557

1995-96

2.018

1.835

46.968

1.602

607

601

1996-97

2.053 .

l.912

43.521

1.607

540

506

1997-98

2.238

1.870

50.288

1.627

696

528

1998-99

2.170

1.928

47.784

1.730

648

512

1999-2000 P*

2.247

2.050

45.904

1.512

612

641

P: Provisional, *: Jul.-Mar, Source: Economic Survey, 1999-2000, Govt. of Pakistan.

 


 

Table 2: Off take and imports of pesticides.

Year

Import of pesticides
Quantity' (Tonnes)

Value(Min. Rs.)

1990-91

13,030.1

1,489.43

1991-92

15,258.3

1,945.98

1992-93

14,434.8

1,730.60

1993-94

12,100.4

1,706.30

1994-95

21,776.1

2,978.10

1995-96

3,047.9

5,080.70

1996-97

30,855.9

5,272.49

1997-98

18,195.2

3,010.10

1998-99

17,913.0

3,101.18

1999-2000 P*

19,148.0

3,740.00

P: Provisional, *: Jul.-Mar, Source: Economic Survey, 1999-2000, Govt. of Pakistan.

Actually, the pesticides are equally poisonous to all livings. It means the pesticides do not kill only the insect pests, disease causing or inciting organisms and weeds, but also may hit the useful insects, birds, all animals and even human beings directly or indirectly. Therefore, only proper use of pesticides is recommended by adopting IPM, IPDM or IWM.

IPM stood for integrated pest management, IPDM for integrated plant disease management and IWM for integrated weed management. The word integrated means combination, implemented as bringing together of individual control measures into a collective operation. The pest, disease or weed management means to check, prevent or control insect pests, diseases or weeds by a judicious use of various methods of control, with the intention of reducing the incidence (damage or harm), caused by insect pests, diseases and weeds to an economically acceptable level. In other words, integrated pest, plant disease or weed management is a programme, in which nature; the farmer (grower) and pesticides (insecticides, fungicides, weeds or so) together combine to control insect pests, plant diseases and weeds. It means application of all those resources and practices, which may help, initially for prevention and finally to control insect pests, plant diseases and weeds, is called integrated pest, plant disease or weed management.

There are so many methods, which are applicable, either adopting singly or in combination one with another, but the use of several techniques in combination, usually is more successful and most efficient, than any one method used alone. Integrated pest, disease or weed management can lead to less expensive agricultural production technology, a substantial reduction in pesticides uses, a greater stability in vegetation system, and an improved environment. It is because that integrated pest, plant disease or weed management is a mix of biological, cultural and chemical practices with the involvement of all preventive and chemical practices, with the involvement of all preventive and curative control measures against insect pests, diseases and weeds.

However, there is really very much more importance of crop protection in the economy of country, in view of both, negative and positive effects on over all crop production (yield), as well as trade and corporation of pesticides, with special reference to import and marketing (distribution) for control of insect pests, diseases and weeds. Now, it is up to researchers that on what aspects of crop protection they would like to conduct research studies. How the extension workers gain knowledge of recent research achievements in the field of crop protection and transfer the same amongst the growers. Likewise, what the growers (farmers) would like to decide for adopting modern crop protection technology (IPM, IPDM and IWM), so that they could save or protect their crops from different enemies (insect pests, plant diseases and weeds) and improve the economy of country.

The writer is Assistant Professor (Plant Pathology) Sindh Agriculture University, Tandojam.