This week, ASEAN FAW Action Project Advisor, Putra Andika, interviews Dr Danarsi Diptaningsari, who is a researcher at the Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology (Balai Pengkajian Teknologi Pertanian/BPTP), Indonesia.
Dr Danarsi finished her doctoral program at the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Gadjah Mada. Her doctoral research focused on testing insecticide resistance and enzyme alteration of insect pests. Since graduating, Dr Danarsi's work has focused on evaluating and disseminating agricultural technologies to farmers while establishing cooperation with research institutes and the industry to advance agricultural practices.
Dr Danarsi (middle) observing corn damage at the Village of Muara Putih, District of Natar, Regency of South Lampung, Lampung
Dr Danarsi, together with BPTP and Indonesia Centre for Agricultural Land Resources Research and Development (Balai Besar Penelitian dan Pengembangan Sumberdaya Lahan Pertanian/BBSDLP), is working on a large-scale demonstration plot to disseminate information on various topics of corn cultivation in acidic lands. She is also researching insecticide resistance in FAW populations.
What research on FAW resistance to pesticides are you currently undertaking?
I am working to test the toxicity of various insecticides, map spatial insecticide resistances of FAW, and identify physiological changes between resistant and susceptible populations. The goal is to create practical knowledge and methods to detect pest resistance against insecticides. My team is also working on disseminating various information on agricultural technology and practices to farmers. We are also testing some different methods for FAW control. For example, we tested rice husk ash and found that was effective to manage early instar larvae, but it may be impractical to apply in a large area.
Our preliminary results show that seven FAW populations from different regions of Lampung were still susceptible to dosage lower than recommendations for emamectin benzoate. However, farmers still reported that larvae are found in the field after the application of this active ingredient. This implies that incorrect application may still be a challenge in the field.
Why is research on insecticide resistance important?
Insecticide resistance testing is important to detect the ineffective use of insecticide immediately. Although there is training on the adverse effects of pesticides, and education is provided on the use of safer management practices from extension officers and related institutions, farmers are still drawn to using chemical insecticides due to their practicality.
There remains limited understanding amongst farmers on how insecticides work and the need for insecticide rotation. Continuous use, even when insecticides are no longer effective, may lead to severe adverse effects on health, hinder the establishment of local natural enemies, and increase production costs. Insights on insecticide resistance to certain pesticides can usefully inform farmers, but also the industry and government, on whether or not certain products are still effective.
What is a major challenge for farmers in FAW management?
FAW has caused great damage to corn farmers in Lampung. In the beginning, when they first arrived in Lampung, some farmers were even forced to replant their field after the FAW had attacked. Two key challenges relate to farmer behaviour. For example, Farmers' habits to continually plant corn means that the pest is continually present in the field, while farmers' frequent pesticide spraying has made it harder for natural enemies to establish.
What is important for farmers to know about when controlling FAW or other plant pests and diseases?
Our team frequently advocates for farmers to conserve natural enemies and focus on healthy plant cultivation by planting flowering plants, rotating between crops, using biopesticides, and optimizing soil pH, especially in Lampung. We believe that moving towards these practices is a way for agriculture and pest management to become more sustainable. Another important aspect is ensuring that where novel safer technologies exist that these can be made available to interested farmers when needed.
What are other plant pests and diseases your team is working on?
Rats are another important pest in corn that farmers report. Their ability to cause damage overnight is often complained about. BPTP has disseminated various information to help manage rats, such as the trap barrier system. Another pest commonly found is Stenocranus pacificus, which damages young leaves and can lead to stunted growth.
What have been some of the challenges around implementing IPM during COVID-19?
Technology adoption by farmers requires consistent in-person meetings with farmers and so COVID-19 has created a big challenge for disseminating information, including on IPM. For example, the number of farmers allowed to join meetings, as well as meeting lengths, are limited. These restrictions decrease the range of information distribution which in turn hinders adoption. In terms of agricultural input supply, however, I have not heard any reports that these products were harder to find.
How can information or technology be effectively communicated to farmers according to your experiences?
Providing examples and letting farmers experience change is an effective way for farmers to learn new knowledge. Our team’s large-scale demonstration plot is an example of this effort. Another example is the demonstration of chemical pesticides and biopesticides to control FAW damage. Using biopesticides require consistent application and monitoring, but the results have been satisfying. Farmers must experience for themselves these practices if we want them to adopt them.