So what's the problem?
Wheat is a staple crop in many countries. After rice and maize, it's the third most produced cereal crop in the world. Pakistan is no different with wheat dominating all other crops in both acreage and production (wheat accounts for 65 % of the food grain acreage, and 70 % of the total crop production). Overall 8.41 million hectares are given over to its production, 6.27 million of which fall in the Province of Punjab in the east of the country.
What is this project doing?
To address the problem before it is too late, CABI has been brought on board to implement a project whereby they and their partners encourage farmers to adopt a proactive approach, rather than following the pests in their wake. This project involves creating a control strategy, to be used before the aphid poses a serious threat.
Results so far
First, the team tested different ratios of the main constituents of fertilizer – nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – to gauge their effects on aphid infestation and yield. The most aphids were recorded in plots where only nitrogen was applied, whereas the fewest aphids were noted in the plots where balanced fertilizer was used. These plots also gave the maximum yield.
Intercropping of wheat with canola was also trialled. The aphid population was reduced as a result of the higher population of natural enemies in the intercropped area, with little sacrifice to the wheat yield in economic terms.
We tested the effects of 15 insecticides on wheat aphids and their natural enemies. 10 pesticides caused more than 60 per cent reduction in the aphid population. Two of these proved to be best at controlling aphids and were also safe for natural enemies.
Farmers are now being trained in when to sow wheat, applying balanced fertilizer and safer pesticides, watering and intercropping, and these techniques are being promoted for dissemination across the region.
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