Integrated pest management for maize
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an ecosystem approach that combines different approaches to control pests. It minimizes risks to the environment and people.
IPM can be used anywhere, in farms, homes, wild lands or natural areas.
For a farmer to implement a successful IPM plan for their maize crop they must:
Through scouting, the farmer must identify the pest type, monitor the pest activities in the crop and set a threshold to inform action. Identification of the pest allows the farmer to understand the pest’s habits, lifecycle, feeding habits, likes and dislikes.
The life cycle will inform the farmer on which stage the pest is most destructive therefore know which stage to deploy control methods. Most pests like the fall armyworm are destructive at their larval stages.
Understanding what a pest feeds on will help in controlling their numbers by removing their food sources causing them to starve.
Be on the lookout for pest activities. Questions like: Is the pest active at night or during the day? Do they attack underneath the leaves? Attack flowers, roots, fruits? Is the crop the host plant or is there a weed host? All the above questions greatly influence the actions and preventive measures to employ.
The results from the step above will help answer the questions: Are the pests causing damage? Do we need to act? Was the method used before monitoring effective?
The answers to the above questions will inform the farmer on next steps.
Once identified and evaluated, some pests can be prevented by simple actions like placement of barriers e.g overhead nets to control birds in a sorghum field, use of resistant varieties, proper field sanitation to remove weed hosts and many more. Research on preventative measures to use for identified pests.
If the preventative measure cannot control the pests, the next step involves use of multiple tools to reduce the pest numbers.
IPM uses carefully selected methods to avoid dependence on one tactic and increase success. Oftentimes, farmers complain about pesticides being ineffective, this is due to buildup of resistance to the pesticides by the pests brought about by overreliance and reuse of the pesticide. With IPM, this is not a problem to expect.
Continue to scout and monitor your crop. If the pest population and damage reduces then the control methods actioned were effective.
The frequency with which visits must be made depends on the crop grown and pest(s) present or expected. Field visits must be scheduled such that increases in pest populations are detected as soon as economic thresholds are reached.
Maize should be monitored at weekly intervals until pollination is completed, at which time scouting frequency can be relaxed to approximately once every ten days.
At this time there is little danger of pest levels exceeding the economic threshold level between visits. The farmer, however, should always have flexible schedules to allow revisiting problem fields.