PlantVillage Engaging Farmers in Malawi in the Preparation and Use of Botanical Pesticides
The PlanVillage team in Malawi is engaging farmers in the use of Integrated Pest Management techniques to empower the smallholder farmers with the knowledge, expertise, and resources needed to minimize losses leading to an increase in yields and income generation. In Lilongwe and Dedza districts, the Plantvillage team is conducting farmer training on the use of botanical pesticides to control insect pests like fall armyworms, beetles, and aphids.
Botanical pesticides are organic and naturally occurring chemical derivatives of plants that work as repellants, attractants, antifeedants, and growth inhibitors. The use of botanicals is cost-effective and environmentally friendly, thereby enhancing agricultural productivity. farmers in Malawi are now actively engaging in the harvesting, preparation, and application of Tephrosia vogelii, Tete, and Tithonia diversifolia to manage insect pests.
Tephrosia vogelii and Tete are toxic to their target pests. On the other hand, Tithonia diversifolia is a repellent. When applied to plants, it gives off a strong scent that pests dislike.
“Farmers are happy and have welcomed the training on the use of botanicals that PlantVillage is offering them. They have harvested Tete from the mountains to plant the seed in their homes for easy access,” Alinafe Chikwekwe, Dream Team field officer.
Farmers harvest bags of fresh leaves of Tephrosia vogelii Tithonia viversifolia and Tete roots, which are dried under shade for 3 weeks. Drying botanicals under the shade ensures that the phytochemicals present are not degraded or lost. Phytochemicals are bioactive nutrients present in plants that are effective for a given pest.
When the leaves and roots have completely dried, farmers pound/grind the leaves using a mortar and pistol.1kg of powdered botanicals is soaked in 10 liters of water overnight. The mixture is then filtered and the filtrate is sprayed onto crops. The residue is then applied to the soil as green manure. When dried correctly, botanical powders can be stored for up to 3 months in a sack under shade.
Farmers who have used botanicals in their farms have expressed contentment and are now solely embracing it in their farms. Mrs Joyce Zimveka, a lead farmer working with PlantVillage says the coming of PlantVillage in Bembeke EPA has helped in identifying and using botanicals in controlling pests since botanicals are readily available, can be harvested, stored, and used anytime.
"Through the pieces of training from PlantVillage, We have also learned to use botanicals as fertilizing agents since they are nitrogen fixers. That means they can be used on their own as green manure or can be mixed with other crop residues to make high-quality manure. We can also process them to make foliar fertilizer. " Farmer, Oswald Andreya.
"I have been spraying Tete to my maize for 3 years now, both during the rainy season and dry season. It has never disappointed me. I spray the filtrate every 2 weeks. It kills fall armyworm larvae instantly. My yield has significantly improved." Farmer Austin Phiri.
With the rising cases of pests becoming resistant to synthetic pesticides, botanical pesticides are less prone to develop resistance making them an effective approach to pest management.