Crop protection, as the term implies, denotes all the practices and products that help protect crop yields. Crop protection need not necessarily be limited to preventing insects, and diseases. It can also encompass methods that help improve the yield of crops. By preventing crop loss in multiple ways, farmers can enjoy benefits such as:
Sustainable crop growing practices
Improvements in yield
Preventing loss of crops due to disease / insects / fungus / rodents etc
Better returns on investments
Deploying crop protection
Broadly speaking, crop protection can be carried out before, during, and after cultivation. There are many methods by which protection can be given to agricultural crops and land. The choice of method must start with addressing the most important dangers to the specific crops. For instance, it could be rodents, insects, fungus, diseases, pests, cattle, birds, weeds, pathogens, or nematodes.
Farmers can choose from products such as fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides. They can also choose to quarantine land / crops and spraying the crops with biopesticides too. Apart from physical products, farmers can also choose to use different practices to deal with dangers to their crops.
Methods of crop protection
One method starts with treating the seeds itself. Whether it is plant genetics or coating the seeds with specific solutions, seed treatments can help give the crops a stronger start.
Then there is trap cropping. A trap crop could be thought of as a decoy. It is usually grown near the main crop but draws insects and pests away from the main crops. For instance, Pelargonium geraniums grown near rose plants are toxic to certain insects that would otherwise destroy the roses.
Biological control also works to protect crops. This method entails the use of helpful insects to prey on the non-helpful ones. This is useful when chemical methods are not to be used.
Crop rotation can also be helpful in many ways. In the long run, crop rotation helps improve soil quality, and therefore leads to lower instances of weeds, and diseases. Think of it as improving overall immunity of the soil which helps crops thrive in a stronger environment.
There are also mechanical means of combating pests. Almost all of us have seen shiny reflective strips fluttering in fields. Or even the good old-fashioned scarecrow standing tall! These are useful in warding off birds. In fact, aluminium strips mulched in vegetable crop fields have been known to reduce aphid attacks on vegetables such as watermelons. Interestingly, sound waves have also been used for crop protection. In adult Indian-meal moths, sound waves, during the egg-laying period have helped reduce reproduction by around 75%.
India has one of the lowest amounts of crop protection, when compared to countries such as USA, and Japan. Considering that the UN estimates that pests destroy up to 40 percent of global crops and cost $220 billions of losses, it does become particularly important for every farmer to invest in the right kind of crop protection method.
The method of biological control dates to 324 BC when the Chinese used ants to prey on citrus pests.
The Egyptians were the first in recorded history to use scarecrows, to help protect their wheat crops along the Nile.