So what's the problem?
Potatoes have high yield potential and are an important food source in Asian countries, as well as a major cash crop for many small farmers. Production in Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan has been increasing over the last decade. With already high cropping intensity on the available arable land in these countries, future production increases will rely more on higher yields - or reduced losses from pests and diseases - than from expanding the cultivation area.
This project is addressing pest management issues for potatoes in the Hindu-Kush Himalaya of Bhutan, Nepal, northeastern Pakistan, and Sikkim (India). Potato production in these tropical mountainous regions is severely affected by pests including the invasive potato tuber moth and leaf miner fly, and native white grubs, cutworms, leafhoppers and aphids. Diseases such as late blight also occur throughout almost all the Hindu Kush potato production zone.
Without adequate control, the potato tuber moth can give crop losses of up to 100% within 2-4 months, and this pest is considered the major constraint to potato production in the region. Leaf miner fly has also caused substantial crop losses in Nepal. To control pests and diseases, pesticides are often intensively used. But protection equipment is often poor or lacking and adherance to codes of conduct on distribution and use of pesticides poor. Hence pesticide use causes hazards to both human health and the environment, as well as making potato production unsustainable.There is therefore a need to develop alternative methods of pest control. This need is increased by growing restrictions on pesticide use: in Bhutan, pesticide use is restricted and controlled by the government, while Sikkim has been declared an 'organic state' where chemical pesticides are banned. But national integrated pest management (IPM) programs have so far been unable to develop sustainable control measures for pests such as the potato tuber moth. There is therefore a need to develop biocontrol options to manage pest problems. The invasive pests, where there is less resilience in the cropping system due to a lack of natural enemies, are a particular concern.
What is this project doing?
In order to develop new methods of pest control, insect communities and relationships between pests and natural enemies need to be better understood in potato-based cropping systems across the different agroecological zones of the region. The potential for biological control of key invasive insect pests can then be evaluated. Insects are therefore being collected, and reference insect inventories established for each country. Pest populations, and farmers pest management strategies and yield losses, are also being assessed.
The potential for biological control of potato tuber moth in all the study countries, and leaf miner fly in Nepal, is being assessed. The objective is to select and introduce host specific parasitoids which can be used to control these pests.
Other objectives of this project include the development and testing of biopesticides for key potato pests, and the integration of local botanical pesticides and less toxic insecticides into pest management by farmers. Integrated disease management methods for late blight and potato wart disease will be developed for Nepal.
As well as developing and testing methods of pest and disease management, research capabilities of partner institutions in the Hindu Kush will be strengthened, and scientists trained in integrated and environmental pest management. Farmers will also be trained as new technologies are introduced.
Results so far
Insect collection has been completed from all locations. Insects are being preserved for reference collections and future work.
Annual progress report 2010
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Aamir Humayun Malik
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