IPM in Wheat
Wheat is the main cereal in Afghanistan covering 57% of the cropped area. Although sunn pest, rust, and bunt are generally considered as the problems of wheat in Afghanistan, the actual problem is the weed that harbors the pest insect and disease. In the entire country, both in irrigated and in dry land areas, crop establishment is mainly done through a broadcasting method of wheat cultivation. As a result, weed populations are high, and there has been no practice of weed control at all. The only viable option for weed control in this broadcasting method of planting is manual weeding, which is very expensive. Thus, most farmers prefer to leave the field un-weeded. Due to huge infestation of weeds, the weaker plants become more vulnerable to insects and diseases. So the focus of IPM in wheat is to control the weed.
From close observations, in most of the wheat fields it has been found that 50% of the plant populations are actually weeds. This means the current yields that farmers obtain from wheat are just half of what could be potentially obtained, if proper weed control is introduced. To address the weed problem, three simple devices have been introduced to the farmers.
The first one is a wooden/iron rake suitable to make furrows in perfect rows. The rake can be pulled by animals or by hands.
The second device is a drum seeder that drops the seeds in the furrows in regular interval. Seeds can be sown by hands as well.
The third device, a rotary weeder, is used when plants are 4 to 5 centimeters tall to clean the weeds. The weeder while cleaning weeds aerates the soil, improving the availability of oxygen in the soil supporting better plant growth. Two to three times weeding at 10-15 days interval is sufficient for the entire duration of the crop. All the devices are calibrated at the farmers’ level.
This new system of cultivation is also known as the System of Wheat Intensification (SWI), introduced based on the success of the System of Rice Intensification (SWI). For more see a short video on SWI.