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From Director's Desk
Production of safe food, protection of environment, doubling farmers’ income and enhancing exports are our national priorities in agriculture. Agricultural production is often challenged by insects, diseases, weeds, nematodes and vertebrates affecting food, livelihood, and socio-economic and environmental security. Pest problems emerge and undergo spatio-temporal changes due to climate change, invasion, changing production practices, increased virulence, resistance, resurgence and secondary outbreak through ecological adaptations and evolution. While loss of crop yield and quality of produce are direct effect of pests at farm level, indirect losses through toxic contaminations of produce during production, storage, ripening or transit have socio-economic-environmental implications affecting both farmers and consumers, and all ecosystem services including organisms in the food web and pollinators. Judicious use of pesticides is a necessity in crop protection, however, instant market availability and the visible effect of reduction in pest incidence following the use of synthetic pesticides lead farmers to follow ‘pesticide treadmill’ resulting in occupational and environmental hazards in addition to the marketed commodities having chemical residues that pose a threat to food safety of consumers. India has adopted the integrated pest management (IPM) as ‘National Policy’ for crop protection since 1985 and a lot of efforts have been and are being made to promote its adoption by farmers. However, its adoption by end users is often perceived to be not satisfactory owing to several factors including lack of awareness, unavailability of non-chemical inputs, lack of holistic pest management modules, insufficient convergence among crop protection agencies etc.

The ICAR-National Research Centre for Integrated Pest Management (NCIPM) established in 1988 with the mission of maximizing crop yields through minimization of yield losses due to pests across major agricultural and horticultural crops in tune with the emerging problems across the country has been validating and refining IPM strategies and practices. The centre envisages larger role in making IPM more effective through multidisciplinary integration including use of information and communication technology (ICT), farmer participatory research, training of extension functionaries and education of farmers with focus on farmers’ economy, crop ecology and production systems sustainability. Pre-season pest management practices, guidance in selection of crops and cultivars suited to soils, timely planting, continuous monitoring of crop health and pest status, conservation practices for natural enemies, and timely use of quality bio rational inputs integrated with location specific crop production practices form the basis of IPM programmes for cereals, pulses, commercial crops, oilseeds, fruits, plantations and vegetables including protected cultivation. Only need based use of synthetic chemicals with label claims at recommended dosages and dilutions is promoted as curative measure. Real time pest management augmented with ICT based dissemination of advisories that advocate right selection of pest management tactics and supply of critical IPM inputs has successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of IPM on area wide basis with reduction in pesticide application frequency and accrual of increased net returns to farmers.

ICAR-NCIPM is evolving steadily with the paradigm changes in agriculture and allied sciences with efficient integration of ICT for surveillance of insects and diseases across states covering important crops including invasive pests. Assessment of the impact of climate change on insects and diseases of major crops along with development of weather based pest forecasts based on ground and satellite based pest surveillance are being addressed during the current decade for improving climate resilience in crop protection. Standalone mobile apps on pest management information system (PMIS), pesticide calculations and IPM of crops have added value to the digital dissemination of IPM. Centre is continuously coordinating with ATARIs of different agro climatic zones to make the knowledge, skills and critical inputs of IPM available at the door steps of farmers. Use of artificial intelligence (AI) for pest diagnostics and forecasting, entrepreneurship development of farm youth and women for mass production of bio agents, and expanding the IPM network with effective collaboration with ICAR crop institutes, AICRPs, KVKs, State Agriculture Departments and agricultural input agencies are on the agenda of ICAR-NCIPM so as to increase speed and area under IPM in the country.