“Between 26 and 40 percent of the world’s potential crop production is lost annually because of weeds, pests and diseases, and these losses could double without the use of crop protection practices.” This powerful statement comes from a report by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Such a compelling case for the use of crop protection practices, including pesticides, is pertinent as the global community develops a strategy to meet the UN’s goal to eradicate hunger by 2030. But understanding the need for crop protection products only gets us so far. That’s why the FAO’s guidance on the role of pesticides within an integrated pest management (IPM) approach is important.
To grow a healthy crop, the FAO recommends the careful consideration of “all available pest control techniques.”It tells farmers to “integrate appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations and that keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and reduce or minimize risks to human health and the environment.” The crop protection industry agrees.
Ensuring that farmers are trained on the most environmentally sound and responsible methods for protecting their crops from pests is central for the crop protection industry. In 2016, CropLife International began a partnership with the German international development organization (GIZ) and the Vietnamese government to train 15,000 Vietnamese rice farmers on IPM (see sidebar, next page). Meanwhile, a six-year project to train over 125,000 farmers in India came to an end in 2015 with impressive results (see Partnership Profile). These are just two in a long line of industry partnerships since 2005 that have successfully trained more than 3 million agricultural workers worldwide in IPM and the responsible use of crop protection products.
In a further commitment to the FAO’s call to promote IPM, CropLife International recently launched a 12-month communications campaign called The Crop Protectors. The campaign features men and women that keep crops healthy by making IPM happen — from a farmer on the front line to a computer programmer developing an IPM phone app, and everyone in between. The campaign explains and promotes all aspects of IPM, including the importance of preventing pests, monitoring for pests and, if needed, the appropriate method of intervention — be it cultural, biological or chemical.
Today’s global food challenge is unprecedented, with demand expected to increase between 59 percent and 98 percent by 2050 . Given the lack of available arable land to expand, the FAO believes 80 percent of the increased demand must be realized through productivity gains. And given we know that 26-46 percent of food is currently lost to pests, diseases and weeds every year, effective IPM — where farmers can access all crop protection tools — will be essential to improve productivity and meet the challenge ahead.