In this Blog, our project associate, Ignatius Putra Andika interviews Fransiska Ningrum Dian Puspita who works at the Pest and Disease Observation Laboratory of Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia.
After finishing her undergraduate degree from the Plant Protection Department, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Gadjah Mada, Ningrum is now working on maintaining biocontrol agents, providing training for farmers, assisting farmers with their agricultural problems, and performing pest surveillance.
Currently, Ningrum is doing a lot of work in the laboratory with Trichoderma sp., Beauveria bassiana, Metharizium sp. (EFP), and Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria (PGPR) to provide starters for farmers and field demonstrations. These biocontrol agents are then introduced to farmers in meetings and workshops with the help of Pest Surveillance Officers.
We asked Ningrum to share with us what is proving to be difficult about FAW control and what might be helpful for farmers to assist them in combating this pest.
What is difficult about FAW control?
Since FAW was found in Central Java the damage has been reported on young plants and it can cause serious damage. We have found information dissemination to farmers challenging, especially if they are not active in farmer groups. Addressing farmers’ reliance on chemical pesticides can also be difficult. This reliance on pesticides can harm existing natural enemies and can create resistant pest populations, so it is important to help educate farmers on this.
What do you think would help farmers to better control FAW and other plant pests and diseases?
Increasing the awareness of farmers on the importance of natural enemies and minimizing chemical pesticide use is required. This is a challenge because it takes time to see the results, as well as prepare the biocontrol agents, and increase the natural enemies in the field. However, over the long term, it can help create more resilient ecosystems. Resistant crop varieties are also essential for farmers.
What do you think is an effective way to communicate with farmers based on your experiences?
Effective communication with farmers starts from mutual respect. Routinely visiting farmers and being flexible to discuss matters that interest them, even outside of agriculture, is helpful. By maintaining these relations, information transfer becomes easier due to farmers being more willing to listen, provide land and facilities for field demonstrations, and share their knowledge and difficulties.
What other plant pests and diseases are you working on?
Besides FAW, this team works on Peronosclerospora maydis on corn, and rats on rice. Both are also considered serious pests by farmers in this area. To manage P. maydis, the team suggests eradicating infested plants and treating seeds with PGPR. For rats, rubuhan (rumah burung hantu – Owl houses) are made to increase the number of natural enemies in the field.
Is COVID-19 making it more difficult for implementing IPM?
Restrictions due to COVID-19 have caused difficulties to meet farmers in person. This hinders the adoption of new technologies and approaches because there are no routine visits, and it often means that farmers resort to using chemical pesticides as their solution. The restrictions also make it harder for working in the laboratory and maintaining biocontrol agents.