Pest control is very important when it comes to farming. Though insects are smaller in size compared to the humans, we cannot deny that their brains are much sharper compared to humans. If you have a closer look at insect behaviours, you will see that the mother insects choose the plant leaves which lack the pest repellent characteristics based on their smell and lay hundreds of eggs and reproduce in a short span. For e.g, Neem is hardly attacked by pests because of the presence of a chemical compound called Azadirachtin. Research studies have shown that azadirachtin interferes with the hormones of insects, thereby affecting their reproduction and chewing of neem leaves is poisonous for young pests. This is the reason that the mother insects avoid neem whereas it may easily attack any other plant lying near or under the neem tree. Thus, based on the smell of a plant, a mother insect usually decides whether it will be suitable for her young ones. Hence, a sustainable natural pesticide should be something which changes the smell of our vegetable/fruits plants and ideally it should be an extract or a solution prepared from the plants with strong pest repellent characteristics. Killing pest is not the role of humans in our food chain. Studies have revealed that how DDT introduction in agriculture broke the food chain and ultimately led to the ban of DDT for agriculture. By breaking the food chain, we may also keep off the beneficial insects away from our farm/garden. Hence when we do farming, we should limit our role to repelling pests and not killing pests.
Farmers and gardeners facing issues with pest attacks could try some of these formulations provided below:
3G Solution (Ginger + Garlic + Green Chilly)
This is a very popular pest control technique used by organic gardeners and it derives its name from the fact that the three main ingredients start with alphabet G. The strong smell of garlic, bitterness and spicy nature of ginger and chilly makes it a wonderful pest repellent. I have been using this methodology for the past 4 to 5 years in my garden and it has shown great results in repelling pests in vegetables. Below are the recommendations for one acre of farmland as given by INSPIRE Revathi:
Ginger – 100 gms | Garlic – 100 gms | Green chilly – 100 gms | 10 litres water
Preparation: Make a paste of ginger, garlic and green chilly and soak the paste in 10 liters of water and keep the solution in an air tight container for 2 days. After 2 days, filter the 3G solution and move the filtrate to a container. The residue could be put in your compost. Though there is no expiry of this preparation, it’s strength gradually reduces over time and it’s best advised to be used up within 3 to 4 months.
For smaller preparations for garden use: 20 gms each of ginger, garlic and green chilly to be soaked in 2 liters of water.
Application: Mix 70 to 100 ml of the 3G solution in one liter of water and do a foliar spray over the infected parts. It’s best to observe the results after mixing it with 70 ml of the solution and if the pests remain, the concentration has could be gradually increased upto 10%. 10% of dilution hasn’t caused any burning of leaves up till my observation for my garden use. Preparing oil of 3G paste enhances the storage period of 3G paste, however mixing with water is the easiest technique for fresh applications. 3G solution could also be applied as a foliar spray as a preventive measure for pests.
5G Solution / Five Green leaf extract
5G may be applied as a solution or extract made from green leaves of five plants possessing pest repellent characteristics. I came to know about this formulation during my visit to INSPIRE Nagapattinam (a research institute working on training farmers on sustainable farming techniques to bring down farmer suicides). Do refer to the below video of INSPIRE Revathi explaining about this technique:
As explained in the video, the leaves of the plants chosen for this formulation should have the below characteristics:
- Leaves should not be consumed by cattle.
- When leaves are taken from the stem, a milky sap should ooze out.
- Leave should not be attacked by pests.
Some of the plants suitable for 5G extract available in Tamil Nadu include – Prickly pear cactus (சப்பாத்தி கள்ளி), Adathoda (ஆடாதோடை), Aadu theenda paalai (ஆடு தீண்டாப் பாளை), Calotropis procera (எருக்கு), Datura (ஊமத்தை), Thulasi (துளசி), Thuthi plant (துத்தி), Papaya (பப்பாளி), Nochi (நொச்சி), Lantana (உன்னி செடி), Castor (ஆமணக்கு), Indian bael/ Vilvam (வில்வம்), Neem (வேம்பு), Wrightia tinctoria (வெப்பாலை), Bitter apple/ Colocynth (வரிகுமிடி), Pongamia pinnata (புங்கை), Eucalyptus (யூக்கலிப்டஸ்)
Ingredients (Recommendations for one acre of farmland):
Green leaves – 1 kg of leaves from 5 different plants with above defined characteristics Cow Urine – 5 liters
Preparation: Make a paste of all the green leaves together or separately and mix the paste in 5 liters of cow urine. The solution should be kept in an air-tight container for 20 days for all the pest repellent characters from different plants to get dissolved in cow urine and become non-toxic for humans though it will act as a very strong pest repellent. It is not necessary that we need to restrict the choice to just 5 varieties. If we choose 1 kg leaves each from 6 varieties of plants, then the leaf paste has to be dissolved in 6 liters of cow urine for 20 days. Just like neem has azadirachtin, the presence of pest repelling chemical compounds in other plant leaves enhances the pest repelling behaviour of this solution. This solution should be kept away from children and dogs in it’s raw form. Please note that 10% of final filtered 5G solution diluted with water is safe to be sprayed on food crops consumed by humans. It is very very important to note that bio inputs prepared with cow’s urine should not be stored in metal and it is essential to store them only in plastic/mud containers.
Application: Mix 100 ml of the 5G solution in one liter of water and do a foliar spray over the infected parts. A combination of 5G and 3G (100 ml of 5G + 100ml of 3G solution) mixed in 1 liter of water will be one stop solution for all pest problems in your farm.
Neem Tea / Neem oil sprays
Like every other beginner in gardening, neem oil was one of the first few things I started using for pest control when I started gardening ten years back. But then, I realized that the neem oil bottles sold in market won’t be of any use to my garden as they are just “clarified hydrophobic extract of neem oil” i.e simply an oil without any beneficial pest repelling constituents. During the process of making ‘refined neem oil’, azadirachtin and other beneficial compounds get destroyed, hence the final oil is useless as a pesticide for gardening. With a huge neem tree in my backyard, I started using the neem leaves/ neem fruits for making the neem tea.
Neem leaves – huge bunch (about half kg) | Water – 3 litres
Make a paste of neem leaves (thin branches, neem fruits could also be added) and mix the paste in 3 litres of water and seal in air tight container for 4 days. After 4 days, filter the neem tea solution.
Mix 1 litre of neem tea with 3 to 4 litres of water and foliar spray over infected parts after removing affected leaves.
Research studies have shown that the content of azadirachtin is more in the neem seed kernels and comparatively lesser in neem leaves and barks. The neem tea prepared from neem leaves itself has an extremely strong odour to change the smell of the plants, however the neem oil prepared from neem seeds is a much better choice compared to neem tea. 100% cold pressed pure neem oil (with azadirachtin) extracted from seed kernels is usually the best choice for pest problems (aphids, ants, mealy bugs, etc) in the garden as it will have higher concentration of the beneficial compounds. Hence, 5 ml of pure neem oil could be mixed with 1 litre of water for garden use.
For the 3G solution or 5G solution or Neem tea to stick on to the plant for one or two weeks, it is better to mix a small amount of soap nut solution or country soap (chemical free soap).
DIY Yellow sticky traps
When our plants are under a major pest attack and if we need to identify the pest, get an idea about it’s population and control the same, the yellow sticky trap is of great use. Insects are in general attracted to plants with bright yellow colours in day and strong aroma in nights. If you observe the flowers, the aromatic flowers that bloom in the night are mostly white in colour. For preparing a sticky trap for insects, a metal sheet is painted with yellow on one side (for day) and with white on the other side (to attract pests in the nights). Finally a small coasting of highly viscous oil like castor oil is applied on both sides of the sheet to make the surface sticky and our sticky trap is ready. Thus, with one sheet painted with yellow on one side and white on the other side, we come up with a sticky trap that could serve its purpose on both day as well as night. The coating of castor oil has to be applied in such a way that it doesn’t drip and is just sufficient to stay on the surface as serve as a glue so that when insects are attracted to the board they stick and cannot move.
I am generally not welcome to use of techniques like water trap/yellow sticky trap / pheromone traps in farms as they kill all type of insects (both beneficial as well as attackers). Though I have added about this in my blog for time being, I will be updating on much better techniques for repelling pests in my next blog.
On rainy days, grease could be applied in place of castor oil. It is suggested to place these sticky traps much closer to the plants which are under pest attack. These sticky traps have become much popular in market these days, but there is hardly any work involved in making your own DIY as we have least idea what type of glue are put into these products. Once the sticky trap is full, they could be wiped clean and then fresh coat of oil could be applied and the same trap could be reused several times.
Our farmers have been brainwashed to spend thousands on pesticides, to which pests get immune within a few days. The generous application of these chemical pesticides have resulted in gene mutations, neural disorders, increase in cancer cases and numerous health problems. Situations have worsened to a stage where even mother’s milk contains few mgs of pesticides and small doses of pesticides are getting into our body like a slow posion. Heavy pesticide spraying across Kasargod in 1970s, UC incident in Bhopal, rise in cancer cases in Punjab were compensated with a few thousands and lakhs while the effect of the toxic pesticide applications continue to haunt us even decades after they were stopped. The lives of millions have been permanently scarred by toxic pesticides, and the situation just keeps worsening with every passing day with bankrupt farmers committing suicides and netas politicizing the issue. An increased awareness on traditional and sustainable farming techniques is the need of the hour to get save ourselves from a food crisis. We appreciate the efforts of INSPIRE Revathi for dedicating a majority of her time to train farmers on sustainable farming techniques.
To be continued in part 2..
On part 2 of bio pest control, I will detail on some more effective pest control solutions and the ultimate Brahmastra for pest control which I am currently testing out in my garden.
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