Posted: February 5, 2021

IBC graduate student fellow Edward 'Kwadwo' Amoah writes about Dr. Sulav Paudel's invited IBC lecture on IPM in developing countries

Each year, about 3 billion tons of pesticides are applied to agricultural systems throughout the world, yet pests and diseases destroy over 40% of crop production yield annually [1]. Regular applications of so many pesticides each year has resulted in negative environmental consequences. With the world's population expected to reach over 9 billion by 2050 [2], scientists predict that crop yields must double to meet this growing demand [3]. Current chemical-dominated pest management approaches are unsustainable for the environment, and provide insufficient crop protection for agricultural systems required to feed us in the years to come.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a decision-making process that involves the coordination of multiple tactics to control pests in an ecologically and economically sensitive manner [4]. IPM is environmentally responsible, customizable by region/crop, and provides a long-term, sustainable strategy for controlling pest insects. The development and adoption of IPM differs, however, in developed versus developing countries. For example, in developed countries, IPM strategies are based on large bodies of information from research institutions, extension agents, contract crop consultants, and through many other agencies [5]. The availability of sophisticated technologies and resources in developed countries has enabled farmers in to adopt and implement IPM strategies more easily than farmers in developing countries. In contrast, equivalent programs and services in developing nations are often underfunded, or nonexistent.

Dr. Sulav Paudel, is a Post-Doctoral Scientist at AgResearch, Hamilton, New Zealand, with direct experience in developing and implementing IPM in developing countries (and is largely focused on South East Asia). He emphasizes that many of the challenges growers in developing countries face using IPM in their operations are limited by the delivery system and extension network, access to crop protection technologies, unique cropping systems, markets, and finally policy/legal frameworks.

Most farmers in developing countries receive IPM training in person and through workshops. Extension offices to offer such training are uncommon and individual extension agents are often just superficially trained for the job. Consequently, many farmers, especially in rural areas, find it difficult to access the training they need. The Farmers Field School (FFS) and associated programming is one resource that has provided an extremely effective platform for promoting IPM in developing countries [6].  Access to new and relatively safe crop protection technologies can also be scarce in many developing countries, so they instead often rely on outdated, imported and sometimes low-quality agrochemicals. The difference in major crops grown in developed and developing countries, and the general layout and practice of farming in developing countries impact the IPM tools that are available for adoption. For example, most farms in developing countries are small scale (about 0.5 to 4ha) and complex, including diversified cropping systems and increased landscape heterogeneity in surrounding areas. Most farmers practice polyculture as oppose to the dominant industrial monoculture farming in developed countries [7]. The complexity and variance from farm to farm in developing countries makes advising and training growers difficult.

Growers themselves are also a major factor influencing IPM adoption. Access to information is often restricted due to poor literacy rates in developing nations. Most farmers practice subsistence farming and are hesitant to adopt 'soft' IPM practices where immediate pest control is not always observable. The market is another important factor. In many developing countries, public awareness and education of the negative health impacts of chemical pesticides is lacking. And finally, pesticide policies are not properly enforced in developing countries. Most farmers in developing countries apply chemical pesticides without the proper training or safety precautions.

Although developing countries face often fall short in providing growers with training in IPM education, the structure and practice of agriculture in these areas provide unique opportunities in developing successful IPM practices. Most farms are small and family-owned, so labor-intensive IPM practices, like hand-picking pest insect larvae, are feasible. In addition, pesticide applications are often not as heavy or routine as they are in wealthier countries.

Learn more about the concepts discussed here by visiting the site linked above or by watching Sulav's lecture on IPPM in developed versus developing countries on the Penn State Insect Biodiversity Center website.


[1] Pimentel, David. "Pesticides and pest control." Integrated pest management: innovation-development process. Springer, Dordrecht, 2009. 83-87.

[2] Cohen, Joel E. "Human population: the next half century." science 302.5648 (2003): 1172-1175.

[3] Ray, Deepak K., et al. "Yield trends are insufficient to double global crop production by 2050." PloS one 8.6 (2013): e66428.

[4] Ehler, Lester E. "Integrated pest management (IPM): definition, historical development and implementation, and the other IPM." Pest management science 62.9 (2006): 787-789.

[5] Shepard, B. M., et al. "Implementing integrated pest management in developing and developed countries." Integrated pest management: dissemination and impact. Springer, Dordrecht, 2009. 275-305.

[6] Luther, Gregory C., et al. "Impacts of farmer field schools on productivity of vegetable farming in Indonesia." Natural Resources Forum. Vol. 42. No. 2. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2018.

[7] Igbozurike, Uzo M. "Polyculture and monoculture: contrast and analysis." GeoJournal 2.5 (1978): 443-449.