India’s Farmers Fighting Pests

India’s Farmers Fighting Pests

May 5, 2015
Food Quality & Nutrition 

India’s farmers are hard at work. Not only do they help to feed a nation that contains 1.3 billion people – one fifth of the world’s population – but they also produce around 20 percent of the world’s cotton. However their productivity is threatened by pests that can ruin their crops and their livelihoods. Here’s a glimpse of how plant science is helping reduce the threat.

According to a study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, annual crop losses due to pests and diseases amount to Rs.50,000 crore ($500 billion), which is significant in a country where at least 200 million Indians go to bed hungry every night. The value of plant science is therefore huge.

Take pulse crops: Indians rely heavily on chick peas, pigeon peas, mung beans and lentils for their daily protein requirements, and these are an essential ingredient in many native dishes, but it is estimated that without crop protection products the pulse crop yield can fall by around 30%.

Given the benefits of crop protection are so significant, small-scale farmers across India are trained in the responsible use of crop protection products. For example in the Adoni region of India a public-private partnership has trained more than 100,000 farmers to manage the threat of pests more effectively.

India is also well known for its cotton production, and is the second biggest cotton producer in the world. Plant science plays a vital role at keeping insects at bay to keep cotton production and quality high. In 2002, India’s farmers planted their first biotech crop, an insect-resistant cotton variety, which protects the plants from the specific insects which can destroy cotton crops.

Today Bt cotton accounts for more than 90 percent of cotton grown in Indian and the impact has been impressive – according to the study Economic impacts and impact dynamics of Bt cotton in India, Bt cotton has helped India’s smallholder farmers increase yield by 24 percent and raise their incomes by 50 percent.

Plant science is keeping India’s insects in line.