Nauni/Solan: Scientists advised to prepare environmentally friendly organic pesticides, which can act as a viable, economic and eco-friendly substitute for harmful chemical pesticides.

Scientists, who have gather from various parts of the country in the National Symposium on ‘Alternative Approaches in Plant Health Management for Enhancing Farmers’ Income’ at the Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni, stated that the India has several plants and trees, and that can be immensely helpful in preparing environmentally friendly organic pesticides.

Dr HR Gautam, Professor and Head, Department of Plant Pathology, stressed on the need to utilize the untapped potential of botanical pesticides, which are quite effective for the management of diseases. He informed that India has over two crore neem (Azadirachta indica) trees, which can yield up 80000 tonne oil and can be effectively used to check the attack of pests and diseases. In addition, there are over 1000 plant species exhibiting insecticidal properties, 384 with antifeedant properties, 297 with repellent properties, 27 with attractant properties and 31 with growth inhibiting properties. There are more than 200 plant species, which have been reported to have anti-microbial properties against important pathogens of different crops. Emphasis on disease forecasting to reduce the losses due to pests was also suggested during the symposium.

In apple, Massonina blotch is continuing to be a serious disease and Dr JN. Sharma underlined the need for adopting the spray schedule of apple, which is being updated by the University every year. Dr G Manjunath from Horticulture University, Bagalkot (Karnataka) suggested an eco-friendly strategy of disease management for pomegranate where farmers are presently applying more than 12 sprays. Dr A. Nagaraj gave a detailed account of the eco-friendly management of millet diseases while Dr Sanjeev Sharma from CPRI Shimla gave an effective model of disease forecasting for potato, which can substantially reduce the losses. Dr PN Sharma, former Professor and Head from Department of Plant Pathology, CSK Palampur talked about molecular approaches for the diagnosis of viral diseases which have grown in serious proportions over the years. Dr DK. Banyal gave a detailed account of the wheat disease with effective measures of management of diseases like yellow rust and loose smut prevalent in our state.

A session on farmer-scientist interaction was an important event of this symposium, which was attended by more than 100 farmers from Shimla, Solan and Mandi. Dr Rajeshwar Singh Chandel, Executive Director of natural farming project of the state was the Chairman of this session. Farmers raised various issues related to the disease problems in apple, capsicum in polyhouses and diseases in other crops. The recommendation that emerged from the session was that rational utilization of resources along with mixed cropping can be a tool to manage plant health and enhance their incomes. A suggestion, which was given by some of the farmers, was the formation of cooperatives and contribution from the farming community to fund agricultural research in the universities/institutes.

UHF Vice-Chancellor Dr HC. Sharma outlined the need for quality research to bring excellence which could be channelized into effective technologies to the farmers. He also emphasized the need for molecular approaches for incorporating desirable genes in the crops for developing good varieties.