So why are farmers using these chemicals?

Insects, weeds and plant diseases can make life very difficult for farmers. By controlling pests, farmers are able to reduce yield losses and sell more attractive produce. For many years, farmers were taught that the best way to control pests was by using chemicals.

Mr. Nong Ampin is 60-year old rice farmer, who lives in Nongkayang village of Nongkachang District, Uthaithani Province. Khun Ampin grows rice twice each year on 40 rai of land.

Mr. Nong Ampin

“Normally, when the rice is one month old, I use a herbicide to control the weeds. After that, at 6 weeks, I start to use Methamidophos (an insecticide). I usually mix Methamidophos with Cypermethrin (another insecticide). If there are lots of insects, I will use this mixture 4 or 5 times per crop. Each time, it takes 2 days for my family of 3 people to spray 40 rai.”

“The chemical pesticides cost about 20,000 Baht per crop, so that is a total of 40,000 Baht per year. Some farmers don’t want to spend their money on pesticides. They get a yield of 0.6 or 0.7 tonne per Rai, but I can get 1.0 tonne per rai by using chemicals.”

“I have never suffered any sickness or allergy from chemical pesticides because I use a mask to cover my nose and mouth. I wear boots when I walk in the field. Sometimes I wear gloves. But it is dangerous in the rainy season when the rice crop is very tall; that makes it difficult to spray.”

“I have heard that farmers in other areas sometimes get sick. I think they might be using very strong chemical. Maybe I will stop using pesticides because I am worried about my health. And the non-chemical farmers still make a profit, especially in the wet season”.

In another part of Uthaithani Province, Mrs. Bang-ern Prakhiew is growing mangoes. She has 800 trees on a plot of about 30 Rais.

Mrs. Bang-ern Prakhiew

“We start spraying after pruning the trees in June. We use Methamidophos (an insecticide) to protect the young leaves from insects, and we use Carbendazim (a fungicide) to protect the young mango from fungus. Usually we mix many things in the spraying tank.”

“We have a big spray tank on the back of a tractor which holds 1,000 litres. We use 3 tanks to spray all of our trees. It takes about 2 days, but we only work for half the day, because the work is dangerous: the pesticide is very strong and the trees are very tall.”

“We spend more than 20,000 Baht on pesticides each year, but the result is we can produce a lot of fruit. We got about 20 tonnes for the first harvest this year.”

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