Are any Thai farmers growing crops without pesticides?

Many Thai farmers are reducing the amount of pesticides they use. The Thai Government and other organisations are teaching farmers how to control pests by using Integrated Pest Management or organic methods.

Mr. Manit Boonkiaw is a vegetable farmer living in Banmai village, Bangyai District, Nonthaburi Province. He grows Chinese kale, Cabbage and Hengchai on a plot of 3 Rai.

Manit Boonkiaw

“Previously I used a lot of pesticides. There were different chemicals for different pests. I used to mix many types of pesticide together. I kept changing the mixture because the worms and insects were becoming resistant, and the chemicals didn’t work. The pesticides used to cost about 10,000 Baht per Rai each season.”

“Spraying was carried out all the year. One day I would spray and the next day the crop would be harvested and sent to market. I knew how dangerous that was. I always had headaches and felt dizzy after spraying pesticides, so I never used to eat those vegetables. I used to have a small plot that I didn’t spray; those were the vegetables for our own consumption.”

“I decided to reduce my pesticides after receiving training in Integrated Pest Management from the Department of Agricultural Extension. That was about three years ago. I didn’t pay much attention at first. But we carried out some experiments that showed how much money we could save.”

“I still use chemicals, but I don’t spray them regularly. First I take a close look at the situation on my farm to see if pesticides are really necessary. If they are, I use the least toxic chemicals, and only in the early stages of the crop. Now I never spray for about 30 days before harvest.”

“I know a lot of vegetable farmers who would like to reduce the amount of pesticides. They know that pesticides cost a lot of money and are bad for their health, but they are worried about the market situation. The middlemen don’t care about pesticides; they never ask what chemicals have been used. And the consumers want cheap vegetables that look good. They should realize that the good-looking vegetables are often contaminated with dangerous pesticides.”

“If consumers would pay a better price for non-chemical vegetables, a lot more farmers would grow them.”

Alternative to pesticides

There are a number of ways that farmers can manage without using dangerous chemicals:

  • Ecological Agriculture: by using compost, growing a healthy crop and conserving the beneficial insects that already exist in the field.
  • Biological Control: by introducing beneficial insects into the field, and using ‘bio-pesticides’ that are made of natural viruses and bacteria.
  • Botanical pesticides: by spraying chemicals that are made from plant extracts instead of synthetic chemicals.

Organic farmers, and those who have been trained in Integrated Pest Management, use one or more or these alternatives.

Bt farmer
Instead of chemical pesticides, this farmer uses botanical products (Neem) and bio-pesticides (Bt = Bacillus thuringiensis) to grow a healthy crop.
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