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Globally, approximately half of all food and fiber produced is lost to field and storage pests (insects, pathogens, nematodes, weeds, and vertebrates). The losses are usually higher in the developing countries of Asia, where environmental conditions favor pest attacks. Thus effective control of pests is critical to enhance agricultural productivity. Several methods have been adopted for this purpose. The most common is the use of chemicals because of their effectiveness. That effectiveness, however, has masked the negative side effects associated with their use. Health hazards, damage to animal/fish populations, and insect pest outbreaks are of major concern to farmers, while consumers are worried about pesticide residues in food and degradation of the environment. There is an increasing interest among stakeholders in addressing concerns associated with the use of chemical pesticides through the application of alternative pest management strategies such as integrated pest management, which employs a wide range of tactics including biological control.
Biological control of insect pests is the use of a specifically chosen living organism (e.g., parasitoids, predators, and pathogens) that keep populations of a particular pest in check. Biological control performs multiple functions. It can be a more economical alternative to some chemical pesticides and helps produce safe food free of chemical residues. It not only protects the environment but also contributes to rehabilitation of degraded environments.
Due to the environmental, economic, and other benefits, biological control is already an important component of certain plant protection programs, but it has a much greater potential for use in a wide range of crops and cropping systems. An understanding of the role of natural enemies in reducing pest populations and ways to enhance their effectiveness is central to the effective application of biological control tactics. Knowledge of novel approaches using pathogens as biopesticides is also needed.
In view of the great potential of biological control to contribute to achieving food safety and Green Productivity in the region, the APO organized a training course on Biological Control of Insect Pests of Tropical Crops in Bogor, Indonesia, 30 October–7 November 2007. The Directorate General of Horticulture of the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the Directorate of Productivity, Directorate General of Training and Productivity Development of the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration implemented the program.
Twenty-seven participants from 11 member countries attended. The nine-day training program focused on enhancing participants’ knowledge and skills in pragmatic, action-oriented principles and practices of biological control of insect pests of tropical crops. The objective was providing participants with the tools and approaches to plan better, to improve their tactical response to pest outbreaks, and to predict more accurately when and where pest outbreaks might occur. The APO dispatched four resource persons to impart the training who were assisted by four Indonesian experts.
The program combined an efficient mix of knowledgeable lectures, hands-on field and laboratory experiments, thought-provoking discussions to learn lessons from the successful examples, and documentation of action plans. Participants collected and identified parasitized hosts, predators, and diseased insects from fields, conducted experiments on biological control, and documented insights learned from group work with facilitation by resource speakers. Participants also benefited from the practical experience of farmers working in different Farmers’ Field Schools in planning for effective biological control. The farmers’ method of educating the participants was simple but very effective. Overall group learning among the farmers, participants, and APO resource persons during the site visits proved productive.