Efforts to sustainably tackle pest infestation continue to proceed
Over the past three months, HSAD has been researching and implementing integrated pest management (IPM) techniques for date palm. IPM is a practical and environmentally-friendly approach which combines an extensive range of techniques to control pest populations, and only advocates the use of chemicals when alternative methods have been exhausted, costs are not excessive, and there is no threat to existing agro-ecosystems.
Date palm is a hugely important commodity and resource in Iraq, but in recent decades the productivity and quality of date palms has dramatically worsened. A major cause of this decline is pest infestation, particularly by dubas bugs, lesser date moths, and stem borers.
One of the main objectives of HSAD’s IPM program is to implement IPM techniques in locations across Iraq, including Basra, Kerbala, and Dhi Qar. HSAD also runs policy workshops to advance IPM implementation and promote government support, and to assist the Ministry of Agriculture with disseminating information to farmers.
To advance the implementation of IPM techniques a number of training courses and workshops have been given – participants have included both farmers and extension agents. Three courses have now been run, involving more than 90 trainees. These courses also help to raise awareness among farmers of the disadvantages of using traditional chemical pesticides in orchards.
A further objective of the program is to boost the use of a new tissue culture lab in Basra. Tissue produced at the lab will be used to help breed and spread desired date palm characteristics among farms.
The overall expected outcome of the project is raised awareness of the benefits of IPM, as well as the impacts of pests to date palm. The extension work is expected to attract government officials and private sector individuals, and explain how to set up modern orchards.
There are a few activities still to be run as part of the program, but the IPM component of the project has been extremely well received so far. USAID Mission Director Thomas Staal met with HSAD field coordinator Dr Abdulminam Ali, and Mr Taha Zwaid, the director of the Al-Hartha Date Palm Station to discuss HSAD’s achievements. Following the meeting, Mr Staal praised the project, writing “You are doing excellent work for the benefit of Iraqi farmers and citizens. We are honored and pleased to support you.”