Pestcides and Fungicides

In order to improve food and income security, farmers in my area venture into irrigated vegetable gardening in addition to other rain fed crop production activities. The challenges the encounter are pests and diseases. Pestcides and Fungicides are available. However, there are so many names and these names keep changing. Is there a way farmers can identify the correct pesticide or fungicide even if names change? I mean like using the 20%EC, 70WP, 150SC etc. If these can be used, what does the numbers imply? Like higher number meaning stronger or what? I hope my question is clear.

In general I would advice that pesticides should always be the last option to be used. Higher priority should be given to build a resilient environment, attract beneficial insects and other predators etc that keep your pests at bay in a natural way. Pesticides will only destroy your ecosystem, even if they might feel beneficial in the beginning.

As for the numbers, I don’t know, because we don’t use industrial pesticides (nor fertilizer) on our farm. We make our fertilizer ourselves, and we use Neem extracts and chilli extracts (from our own trees - doesn’t cost us a dime) for keeping harmful insects in check.

For more information on this subject, google for “IPM” - Integrated Pest Management, and “permaculture pest management”.

There are many trade names for pesticides so always look at the name of the active ingredients.

@Paul_Klinger @Martin_Tlustos Paul you make a good point that the main focus of determining which pesticide to use which centers around the active ingredients. I google “efficacy” the active ingredient and the pest/s that I am targeting. Martin makes a good point that cultural practices and IPM are an important part of pest management so you will want to read up on all the cultural practices. I used to be a scout for a large strawberry farm using beneficials and we only sprayed where the beneficials count relative to the pest count was getting out of balance. The problem is that I am not sure they are readily available in African countries. I consider Neem to not be nearly as effective as most of your commercial pesticides since they are mostly feeding disruption at rates normally used and chili peppers in studies that have been done show almost no control from their use. It is as if pests are relatively resistant to them based on studies conducted. IGRs are the most safe but safety is a relative term and when pesticides are used according to the label they are generally safe. You also need to consider the “economic threshold” and you can google that to learn more about how to determine if the insect pest is doing enough damage to justify the cost of control. Some insect damage may end up being less than the cost to control so you don’t automatically spray when you see damage. Some sprays are recommended as preventative so you spray before you even get damage because waiting will cost you. Insects that sting pr oviposit into your vegetables or fruit are unacceptable damage and in most cases, you spray in advance to make sure this does not occur and repeat spraying to make sure you have “cover” but each time you spray you have to make sure you are not exceeding the limit for the chemical and that you have enough “pre harvest interval”. Fungicides on tomatoes and cucurbits are often used preventatively but cultural practices such as using deep fresh mulch from cutting grass, staking, pruning branches and eventually the leaves touching the ground and wide spacing in the rainy season will help control blight on tomatoes but spraying can help. Cucurbits often need preventative sprays to control downy mildew and not spraying is not wise in many if not most cases. Healthy organic soil, good irrigation timing, and light shade, when needed to reduce heat stress, will prevent many insect types. Watch aphids though, particularly on watermelons because they do a lot of damage fast. I share a different opinion from Martin on ecology damage from spraying although it is possible to be quite destructive to bees which can be mitigated by avoiding neonicinoids and spraying early morning before bees are active which is also the calmest part of the day. As for toxic elements in residues, it really is a complicated science. Plants when attacked by insects, if healthy, respond by immediately producing their own natural pesticides at levels up to 10,000 times the normal level. Unhealthy plants often succumb to much higher levels of insect attack. These natural pesticides are potentially just as likely to cause harm and cancer as synthetic ones if ingested based on the work done by Dr. Ames. So spraying a pesticide has its risks but so does not spraying and you have to use good science to evaluate and see if there are less costly and effective cultural controls. In my opinion it is a just a popular myth that there is evidence that pesticides are to be avoided due to harm to the environment. I have seen too much failure from organic methodology and if someone wants to farm organically or naturally they should test it on a small area first rather than losing their crop from lack of tools for control or lack of adequate fertility due to inadequate compost or cost of hauling sufficient manure.

I’m not opposed to the use of pesticides per se. It is just that all too often they are used as an easy, thoughtless quick solution without taking any other factors into the calculation. A typical example of human sinful thinking that doesn’t care in the least about how God intended creation.
So first try to get the environment back on track (not in terms of time, but in terms of importance). Pesticides should only be used as a last resort (again, not necessarily last in time, but last in importance). But then - and if you are educated well enough in how to use them right - it is o.k. to use them.

@Martin_Tlustos That is a very thoughtful reply. I really appreciate your concern about not taking care of God’s creation yes pesticides can be used improperly and they can do a lot of damage, particularly in places where pesticides are sold as fake and applicators don’t use protective equipment knowing that if they feel an effect it is the “real stuff”. That is terrible as they don’t know the effects on themselves long-term. On the other hand pesticides should be respected as according to the label and not used without following instructions and that requires some education so that is a good point. If you withhold using a chemical for spraying and you incur an economic damage greater than the costs of the use of the pesticide which may include paying someone else to apply for you if you don’t know how you use it well then that can impact your ability to feed your family or meet the needs of your family and also impact your ability to maximize your blessing to others. Pesticides are a tool and I would also emphasize an economic threshold as used according to the label with appropriate awareness of beneficials and bees and how they may be impacted. I don’t necessarily think that that means they are used last. I think of using something like Paraquat last because I know how dangerous it is to apply it and also that it is toxic for some time afterward if someone accidentally consumes things sprayed before the preharvest interval (generally not sprayed on crops but on weeds) but something like an IGR it might be my first choice due to it being even safer than something like Neem. Neem is a pesticide also and ingesting too much of it can cause serious damage to you (whereas that is generally not true of most IGRs) so all pesticides must be evaluated as to their relative benefit and risk. Many natural pesticides are very dangerous so organic regulations restrict them as well (and some of them should be restricted but are not because people do not care to compare (i.e. Tithonia which should actually be used according to a label but the label does not exist because it is generally not extracted commercially but by those interested in natural pesticides) or the danger level is not yet known). We have to think in terms of the risk of all the things we may potentially touch or eat as to their level of danger. It is good to promote a proper respect of chemicals of all types including natural ones but not promote a fear of them, something I find in both developed and non-developed countries that sets them back from the economic side of stewardship.

Thanks for the information. Also by utilizing disease resistant cultivars has always been a focus of mine in my 60 years experience in horticulture production here in central Florida and in Central America. I realize these can be expensive in developing countries but one can do their own trials by observation. I’ve been successful in selecting my own seeding variants over the years. P J Klinger