A temporary tunnel screen as an eco-friendly method for small-scale farmers to protect cabbage crops in Benin
Protecting vegetables with a screen in peri-urban areas of tropical countries could reduce or even prevent often indiscriminate insecticide applications by small-scale farmers. The advantages of such an approach are protection of human health by reducing insecticide sprays, reducing environmental pollution from insecticide residues and increasing effectiveness of crop protection. Tunnel screens are well adapted to farmers cultivating intensively on small plots. Two trials were conducted to test the ability of screened tunnels to protect Brassica oleracea crops. The first was carried out on-station and the second in partnership with three farmers in Cotonou, Benin, West Africa. Tunnel screens impregnated with deltamethrin were found to be particularly well adapted to protect young plants in seedling nurseries against infestations by the aphid Lipaphis erysimi (Kaltenbach). The number of diamondback moth Plutella xylostella (Linnaeus) and borer Hellula undalis (Fabricius) on cabbages protected with the tunnel screen was significantly lower than that of plots conventionally treated with insecticides. The tunnel screen was not efficient against the armyworm Spodoptera littoralis (Boisduval) which laid eggs on the screen. After planting out, the use of a temporary screen from 1700 to 0900h gave better control against pests than the use of a permanent screen possibly due to the impact of natural enemies during the day. The field trials showed that the protection of cabbage with a tunnel screen could be an economically viable method. The costs of pesticides are on average US$ 45 per 100 m2 for one crop cycle compared with US$ 24 per100 m2 for tunnel screen material (assuming that this material can be used for 10 consecutive crop cycles). In addition, there are environmental benefits from a reduction of pesticide use. Farmers will have to cope with the initial investment for the screen material, which is, however, very cost-effective and locally available. Tunnel screens for vegetable protection can be easily combined with other integrated pest-management techniques.
Key wordsvegetable protection tunnel screen Plutella xylostella cabbage
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