Last May experts* in tea production and pest control gathered in Coonor, India, during a two day workshop by UTZ on Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
IPM promotes the use of alternative methods for pest and disease control while increasing productivity and reducing risks to human health and environment. This means that producers implement good agricultural practices to prevent and control pest and disease and only use pesticides as a last resort. When chemical control cannot be avoided, the choice for a pesticide should strive for maximum effectiveness against the pest and disease, and minimum toxicity for people, flora and fauna.
The May workshop had the objective to facilitate knowledge-exchange on IPM; share successful experiences of farmers implementing IPM on tea production; share the expertise of people working on biological control in India and discuss alternatives for the most challenging pests in tea, focusing on biological control.
Biological control – an alternative to agrochemical products
During the workshop participants discussed the most occurring pests and diseases in south India and exchanged knowledge over possible biological controls. Participants shared their experience in treating pests and diseases with alternative solutions to agrochemical products. Biological control was found to be effective.
Traditional practices were also part of the workshop, with a good example given during CTRD’s presentation. This was the preparation of Panchagavya; a traditional bio stimulant made with manure and other ingredients which contribute to soil health and make crops less likely affected by pests and diseases.
Use of predators as pest control
A highlight of the session was the importance of addressing pest and diseases by looking at the entire farming system and all the elements that contribute to the presence of both pests and predators.
Participants pointed out that one of the causes of failure of biological control is that there are not so many products based on local species. The products with imported insects might not be well adapted to the conditions in India. Therefore, developing products with native species is considered as very beneficial for the Indian producers.
During the second day participants worked in groups to identify biological control for the top ranked issues in South India, namely red mites, blister blight and weeds. Finally they identified which agrochemical controls and weeds might cause the presence of residues in tea leaves. A field visit organized by UPASI research Centre complemented the workshop, highlighting what has been achieved so far and what still needs to be investigated.
* List of workshop participants:
- UPASI (The United Planters’ Association of Southern India)
- CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International)
- KOPPERT (Koppert Biological Systems Nederland)
- CTRD Trust (Centre for Tribal and Rural Development)
- Representatives of certification bodies,
- Rainforest Alliance
- Implementers (Tea estates)
Integrated Pest Management and the UTZ code
Pesticide use comes with health risks for farmers and workers, and there are concerns about pesticide residues in final products. In addition, there can be serious costs to the environment: damage to biodiversity, in particular pollinating insects such as bees, and pollution of water sources.
For this reason, the UTZ code of conduct requires that farmers develop and follow an IPM plan which enables producers to grow healthy and high quality crops while minimizing pesticide use and protecting the health of workers and the local environment. There are more than 20 requirements in our Code of Conduct linked to pest management and pesticides handling.
Additional information on this topic can be found in these documents on UTZ website: