Effective pest management needed to improve agri yields

ISLAMABAD: Insect pest damage is one of the primary reasons behind reduced crop production on farms and agricultural premises. The problem can be tackled by employing a strong and effective pest management system.
There are many different pest species that can cause agricultural damage, and if they are not treated, they can also result in a loss of income.
Talking to WealthPK, Muhammad Ashraf Khan, Scientific Officer at National Agriculture Research Centre (NARC), said pesticides have become a major concern in Pakistan due to their widespread use in agriculture and their potential to harm human health and the environment.
“Over the years, the use of pesticides has increased significantly in Pakistan, leading to high levels of pesticide residues in food and water sources. This poses a significant risk to public health, especially for those living in rural areas who rely on crops for their livelihoods and food sources,” he said.
Ashraf said agriculture products for human consumption and animal feed are severely harmed by insect pests. He said diseases and insect pests can lower production, and in worst cases, completely destroy a crop. He said every fruit and vegetable have their own pests, and there are separate methods to control them.
“In many cases, farmers use excessive amounts of pesticides without proper training or protective equipment, exposing themselves and their communities to toxic chemicals,” he said.
The uncontrolled use of pesticides has led to serious concerns about the impact on human health and environment, he added.
“On the other hand, the accumulation of pesticides in soil and water can harm beneficial insects, birds, and other wildlife, disrupt ecosystems, and pose a risk to public health through contaminated food and drinking water,” he pointed out.
The use of substandard pesticides is a major problem in Pakistan, as many of these products are fake or counterfeit and contain dangerous chemicals that are banned or restricted in other countries.
The issue of substandard pesticides is exacerbated by the lack of regulation and enforcement, as well as poor laboratory facilities and a shortage of trained personnel to carry out inspections and testing.
In addition, farmers often use pesticides not registered for use in Pakistan either because they are cheaper or because they are not available in the local market. This can result in improper use and the application of the wrong type of pesticide, which can be hazardous and counterproductive.
“Pakistan needs a strong pest management system since agriculture is being severely damaged, which costs us a lot. The government is responsible for making sure that farmers employ the proper preventative measures,” Ashraf said.
“To address these concerns, the government of Pakistan must take a more proactive approach to regulating the use of pesticides in agriculture. This includes strengthening laws and regulations, providing education and training to farmers, and improving laboratory facilities and testing methods,” he said.
Additionally, he said, alternative methods of pest control, such as integrated pest management and organic farming, should be encouraged and supported to reduce the reliance on harmful chemicals.
Ashraf said the agriculture extension department must establish farmer field schools, where small farmers must be educated and trained on new cost-effective and safe practices in farming.