Farmer Trials Promote IPM for Millet in Mali

Throughout the African Sahel region, millet is an important cereal grain for rural people. But millet's low market price is a key reason why production inputs are not often economical. To mitigate the "price-versus-input costs" dilemma with respect to pest control in Mali, an IPM strategy coupled with appropriate socio-economic studies was instituted in 1985. The project area covered 30,000 km2, just south of the Mali/Mauritania border. The program was a collaborative effort between the United Kingdom's Overseas Development Administration (ODA) and an FAO/UNDP project for strengthening Mali's National Plant Protection Service (SNPV).

Pest varieties in the Sahelian ecosystem fluctuate from year to year, due to highly variable and sporadic rainfall patterns and the seasonal development of vegetation. Thus, IPM based on a forecasting approach is difficult to implement successfully. Rather, a responsive approach based on regular and frequent scouting is preferred. The most important millet pests in Mali are millet head miner (Heliocheilus albipunctella), various species of grasshoppers and locusts, stem borer (Coniesta ignefusalis), meloid and scarabaeid beetles, several rodent and bird species, and weeds (particularly Striga spp.). Fungal pests are less of a problem throughout the Sahel.

Trials Attract Farmers

Among the ODA project objectives was the promotion of local IPM developed from field trials, socio-economic studies, and training farmers and SNPV staff. The number of farmers taking part in the field trials grew from four to 270 during 1985-89, representing 50 villages. The trials focused on the effect of different pesticide treatments on stem borers, grasshoppers, and head miners. The treatments were cypermethrin at ultra-low volume, cypermethrin granules, carbofuran granules, and a local millet variety (Ningare) reputedly resistant to certain pests. Also included was an aluminum phosphate treatment to evaluate yield response. The socio-economic studies surveyed farmers' pesticide use and perceptions of the pest problem, the millet market, credit availability, labor resources, production practices, farmers' opinions of the pest management trials, and farmers' views on risk management.

A number of recommendations grew from the ODA project:

1) plant millet right after the first major rain; 2) weed just before plowing; 3) treat seeds with fungicides; 4) monitor rainfall; 5) initiate light trapping to monitor the development of grasshoppers, head miners, and stem borers; 6) conduct surveys of moth pupae and grasshopper eggpods during the long dry season; 7) harvest as early as possible; 8) break millet stems just below the head (a traditional practice) to diminish losses to birds and increase the mortality of stem borer larvae; 9) apply, at most, one late-season, ultra-low-volume spray; 10) understand that chemical control against highly mobile pests like grasshoppers is not likely to be economical; 11) direct late-season pest control at specific crop plantings, not at global reduction of pest populations at great distances from cultivated areas; 12) protect harvested grain with dust formulations or neem by-products; 13) conduct an annual survey of crop losses to pests.

Farmers Find Alternatives

Data from the project support claims that subsidies ought to be provided to farmers for pest controls and for implementation of IPM. The project demonstrated that alternatives to chemical pesticides include better weeding, use of fertilizers, use of pest-resistant millet varieties, and investment in more plows to increase millet production. However, methods that call for additional labor are not likely to be popularly adopted.

Long-term recommendations include more research on improving resistant varieties, biological controls, predatory species, the role of crop residues in harboring stem borers, and intercropping.

N. D. Jago. 1991. Integrated Pest Management for Rainfed Millet in Northwest Mali, In Agnes Kiss and Frans Meerman, eds. Integrated Pest Management and African Agriculture, World Bank Technical Paper Number 142, Africa Technical Department Series.