A Handbook of Organic Plants Production in Kenya: A Case of Pyrethrum Production and Utilisation

Gathungu. G.K. 2015


Agricultural productivity is limited by numerous biotic and abiotic constraints, but soil fertility and pest management are critical. Commercial fertilizers and pesticides have limited access in rural areas due to their high cost and resource-poor farmers cannot afford them. They have also become ineffective due to soil polarization and pest resistance.  In the recent past several botanical plants have been found to be an effective alternative to soil fertility improvement and pest control. Promotion of the botanical plants would have enormous impact on a farmer’s ability to manage soil resource and pests as they are promising alternative to synthetics towards organic crop production and pest control. Various crude products are being used by farmers but there is limited information available on application, efficacy, toxicity, persistence, shelf life and safety of these products. Several farmers have used plants in this way, making the technology familiar, trusted and acceptable, but their priority in agricultural policy is low. The optimization of their full potential, especially for the poorest farmers, is constrained by inadequate product evaluation and development which, if improved, will increase the reliable options available to farmers. Exploitation and optimal use of botanical plants can be enhanced through development and dissemination of knowledge and capacity building for research and initiation of innovations geared towards their sustainable development and use in organic crop production. Botanical plants can be used to produce biopesticides at the farm level. Biopesticide registration guidelines and policy recommendations require to be developed and formulated and documents produced to facilitate extraction and use of the same at the farm level to facilitate their uptake and safe use. Biopesticides use due to their low residue levels will go a long way towards minimization of hazards related to use of synthetic pesticides. Organic production of crops is of critical importance to the resource poor farmers as it increases on their value and competitiveness in markets. There is need to strengthen the capacity of farmers to exploit botanical plants and optimize their use in crop production. Botanical plants can also provide marketable products for farmers and their commercialization will provide both an additional income stream to poor farming communities. This will reduce the high level of rural poverty by making agriculture more competitive, increasing food security and raising poor farmers’ incomes by cost effectively increasing crop yields, and reducing post harvest losses. Some of the botanical plants include pyrethrum, neem, Tephrosia vogelii, Ocimum, Marigold, Tithonia diversifolia, Crotalaria juncea , Datura, black jack among others. However, today except for pyrethrum there is no coordinated cultivation or conservation of most of the botanical plants and most of them are sourced from the wild. Exploitation of botanical plants can be achieved through sustainable production of botanical pesticides through improved propagation, cultivation, germplasm conservation and harvesting. There is also need to invest in product development, formulation standardization and application from the simple crude extracts to the refined active ingredients. Pyrethrum is the only botanical crop which has organized production system and is well commercialized. Pyrethrum production has been constrained by lack of knowledge and information on production. This handbook will impact greatly on production and utilization of pyrethrum on areas where it is grown because it details the principles and practices required in the production value chain. In my current teaching, training and research career there is a lot of emphasis on organic crop production and therefore this handbook will be resourceful to farmers, students, researchers and stakeholders in agriculture development.

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