THAI COTTON GROWERS STILL FAR AWAY FROM IPM: CONTRIBUTION OF SYSTEMS APPROACH TO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF FARMERS' PRACTICES
Mar 13, 2017

Crop Protection Croprotection-Asia
Abstract                                                                         Back to Table of contents

On-farm surveys have been performed since 1991 in two cotton growing areas in Thailand for three cropping seasons. A systems approach focused on farmers' technical choices in relation to characteristics of the bio-physical and socio-economic environments as well as the differentiated functioning of their production systems. On-farm experiments aiming at assessing the impact of different pest management practices on the cotton crop have been carried out in the same areas.

Intensive cultivation practices have brought about fundamental transformations of the ecosystems (e.g. evolution of the entomofauna and insect resistance) as well as the farming systems (high input use, dependence on agrochemicals and lint processing industries, spiralling production costs, etc.) all of which has led to a steady reduction in cotton production during the last few years. One key factor identified as a major constraint for cotton production is the inability of farmers to control pests through economically and environmentally sustainable cultivation practices. Although most cotton growers are aware of the "environmentally friendly" techniques promoted by agricultural extension agencies, they are not able to implement them because of constraints imposed by their socio-economic environment. Thus, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) propositions should avoid any standardized set of pest management techniques but should promote an approach utilizing agro-ecological principles and translating them into a socio-economic framework respecting farmers objectives.

Conclusions

Entering the sixth phase of cotton production history will not be an easy enterprise given:  the critical stage which has already been reached in the environment degradation process (Trébuil, 1993); a government policy which supports the textile industry through raw cotton imports at low prices; and alternative agricultural or non-agricultural activities which have emerged in recent years.

However, rapid solutions toward an improved sustainable pest management have to be found before an intolerable situation spreads to other production, especially orchards and vegetable crops. "The systems approach has shown its relevance to deal with the inter-related components of such fragile ecosystems where disasters have occurred because of non-holistic pest management practices in the past. IPM is not a technological package that farmers can adopt if they see their interest, but an approach utilizing agro-ecological principles and translating them into a socio-economic framework respecting farmers objectives" (Teng and Savary, 1992). Recommendations targeted at the various types of farmer should receive good responses as far as the future users have been involved in the successive phases of their elaboration. In the same way, extension personnel and, more widely, all the actors of regional agricultural development should be involved in such research and development processes.

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