Even if a farmer has used improved varieties and seed, applied fertilizers as recommended, and watered/irrigated his crops adequately, there is no guarantee that he will get a good crop.
All crops are susceptible to damage by pests and need to be protected. If left uncontrolled, pests can cause serious destruction and damage.
There are several types of pests and diseases that may cause losses for farmers. These include insects like beetles, ants, bees, flies, butterflies, grasshoppers etc.
There are nematodes which are mainly tiny worms. They are numerous multi-cellullar organisms that are found in the soils.
Then there are pathogens that include bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. These are largely tiny and cannot be seen by the bare eye. They infect plants, animals and humans. Some of the commonest plant diseases caused by pathogens include rust, smut, stalk rot, blight, common scab, canker, leaf spot, bacterials wilt, maize streak etc.
The other type is called vertebrates. These are usually small animals like rats, mice, birds, flying foxes and bats.
Sometimes bigger animals like the wild boar, pigs, monkeys and baboons can also damage crops. Weeds of different types and species can also cause damage to crops. Weeds are unwanted plants that grow in the cultivated area along with the main crop.
Weeds compete with the main crop for the available resources like water, space, sunlight and plant foods or nutrients.
Weeds can also harbour parasites, insects and pathogenic diseases. This is why they have to be controlled and weeded out.
There are various types of crop protection. Insects are protected by the use of insecticide for a broad spectrum for all insects, acaricide for just termites, ticks and spiders, miticide for only termites and molluscicide for mollusks, slugs and snails.
Chemicals like Furidan and Ambush are used to kill insects. Nematodes are killed by Nematicide while pathogens are controlled by bactericide and fungicide and weeds are controlled by using herbicides and weedicide like Round up and Touch down while vertebrates like rats and mice are controlled by using rodenticide and avicide.
Tips to farmers when buying crop protection products
- The very basic tip is that you make sure you buy products from well-known dealers.
- Only buy sealed packages of chemicals that bear original label and brand.
- Always read the label and follow instructions. If you cannot read or understand the label, have someone to help you. Write notes to remember what the label says.
- Make sure you know what you need and buy the right product to address your problem.
- Seek advice from your local agriculture extension worker if you cannot identify what is causing the problem. That way, you will save money.
- Always save the container and receipt from your purchase.
- Do not apply chemicals when it is raining or when rain is expected very soon. Apply in the morning after dew is gone or evening when it is cooler.
- Make sure the chemical is applied correctly. Incorrectly applied chemicals can kill crops.
And finally, take note of the inscriptions on the containers. These include the brand name, list of pests that the chemical can control, net content by weight or volume, name and address of the manufacturer, directions of proper usage. Storage instructions and the precautions to be observed while disposing off the container.