At the IUPAC 2019 Next Generation Agri Summit, I would like to propose a project on the development of knowledge toolkit for farmers’ decision making with a goal towards improved fertilizer and pest management in Udayapur district of Nepal, especially for vegetable farming (in cucurbit crops). The project will unravel management practices at farmers’ level for vegetable production in Udayapur district. A decision making toolkit will be distributed among farmers during the on-site extension services. This project will encourage on safe use of chemical fertilizer and pest management among the vegetable growers in Udayapur district.
For the successful completion of this proposed idea, our core team includes Debraj Adhikari, Roshan Subedi, Swikar Karki, Nikita Bhusal, Kiran Timilsina, Swikriti Pandey, and Anil Banstola. Mr. Adhikari has been working as Senior Plant Protection officer in Government of Nepal since 2010. Mr. Subedi serves as Research Associate in Nepal Seed and Fertilizer Project/ CIMMYT Nepal. Mr. Karki is an Assistant Professor of Soil Science at Far-Western University and a resident of Udayapur district. Ms. Bhusal, Mr. Timilsina, Ms. Pandey, and Mr. Banstola are recent graduates from food and agriculture institutions and also represent YPARD Nepal.
Nepalese agriculture is largely dominated by small-holder family farms, which are managed and operated by the farm owners. Because vegetables are a high-value commodity, these farmers are increasingly attracted towards vegetable farming compared to cereal and pulses. Multiple reports from Nepal revealed that more than 75% of farmers used chemical pesticides solely to control insect pests in their vegetable crops (Atreya, 2013; Vaidya et al. 2017; Rijal et al. 2018). Still, there is about 35 to 40% pre and post-harvest losses due to pests (Adhikari et al. 2017).
Public extension service has been stable, but also stagnant in Nepal. Agricultural research and extension services are not well linked and suffer from a lack of suitable technology transfer to the farmers. The proposed study in Udayapur district falls under inner Terai region (low mid-hills). Farmers in this region use a higher amount of chemical fertilizer and pesticide per unit area compared to the mid-hills and high-mountains regions (Sharma et al. 2013; Pandey et al. 2018).
Many farmers have poor to no knowledge of composition, use, handling, and safe disposal of fertilizers and pesticides. Farmers repeatedly use the same pesticide every year which has resulted in developed resistance to the pesticide. Nepal has experienced an increasing tendency to use pesticides by 10% to 20% every year (GC, 2016), which calls for alternative pest control strategies. Same situation for fertilizer application. Despite the advisory recommendation made from research, small-holder farmers are widely seen to use acid-forming nitrogenous fertilizer. Use of a balanced dose of fertilizer is atypical (Panday et al. 2018).
Frequently, the production-oriented farming system and lack of prior knowledge on modern farming management practices lead towards the misuse of pesticides and fertilizers and there exist big gaps between the planting and harvest calendar. The misuse of pesticides and fertilizers not only impacting the natural soil properties and biodiversity of the localities but also raised a big concern over the health of farmers and consumers. Thus, a knowledge toolkit is necessary to close the gap between the research output and implantation at the field. This toolkit including integrated management practices will ensure the conservation of the local environment, soil, and farmers’ health.
For the implementation of our proposed idea, the collection of data through semi-structured interviews (phone/ face to face) with farmers and agro-vets (who supplies chemical fertilizers and pesticides) in Udayapur district will be conducted in August 2019. Information on the demographic and socioeconomic situation of farmers, and adoption or non-adoption behavior and knowledge about soil testing, nutrient management, and pesticide management will be collected through the interview. This primary data collection will provide an opportunity to develop a farmers’ decision making toolkit (in local language).
A simple random sampling method will be used to select four wards from Katari Municipality and Udayapurgadi Rural Municipality. Sample size (>50%) will be determined based on the number of households/ farmers from those locations and it will be mixed of farmers from two age groups: <35 and >35 years. A mix of two age groups of farmers fosters the exchange of knowledge between diverse age groups and helps in better adoption of improved practices.
Piloting of our initiatives at field will start with organizing farmers in group and providing capacity building training to farmers on Integrated Nutrient and Insect Pest Management in Cucurbit Crops in October 2019. Farmers will be encouraged to test their soils before the start of growing season of cucurbits (December- June). In the absence of soil testing results, crop nutrient removal and previously applied fertilizers technique will be followed to provide the recommended dose of fertilizer application.
Field trials for insect survey will be done by installing pheromone traps for particular insect species. Farmers will be capacitated on the diagnosis of insect and on-site insect identification training will be organized during peak season. Plant clinic will be organized to identify the number of cases of the insect problem. All recommendations to farmers will be provided with the toolkit developed by our project.
Though our on-site study will be in Udayapur district, we will disseminate our knowledge toolkit to other farmers of Terai region. It will be made publicly available through printed and electronic media (including social media) and farmers can reach our extension specialists through a phone call service.
As a researcher, I (in a team) have already started few initiatives similar to the proposed idea in Nepal. Those include the introduction of soil testing mobile van to provide soil testing results and fertilizer recommendations at farmers’ doorsteps (Pandey et al. 2018) and study on spatial variability of soil nutrients which allow farmers to assess existing farm’s soil condition and encourage them to make easier and efficient management decisions (Panday et al. 2018). Besides this, I worked as Coordinator of EduMala Mentoring Program in 2016, which was aiming to build the interpersonal skills of Nepalese young agricultural professionals. A total of 99 mentees (including 35 female) got benefited from this program (YPARD, 2017).
Our team, including highly experienced and trained extension officers, will provide and disseminate improved knowledge of fertilizer and pest management. We believe, this extensive service will create links between the stimulation system and acquisition system. We will follow a practice of “learning by doing” which can influence those farmers toward the adoption of knowledge toolkit for fertilizer and pest management. We hope, in future, those trained farmers will share their knowledge and experience with new farmers and encourage them to follow the right use of fertilizer and pesticide in crop production.
Dinesh Panday, Nepal
Feature Image Credit: Roshan Subedi