Evaluating the relative contribution of training and ecological factors on the adoption of insect pest management technologies in Honduran smallholder communities
A two-year study was conducted to characterize social and ecological contributions to integrated pest management (IPM), and specifically conservation biological control, in Honduran subsistence agriculture. My research was designed around 3 key objectives. The first objective was to quantify pest infestation levels and characterize abundance and diversity of natural enemies in small-scale maize fields on hillsides in Honduras. My research focused on the fall armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda Smith, a key pest of Central American maize production. The second objective was to assess the extra-field contribution towards arthropod predator abundance in maize. Linkages were explored between certain habitat features, their spatial arrangement at an agro-landscape scale, and abundance of natural enemies recorded within maize fields. The third objective was to gauge farmers' understanding of ecological processes occurring within their fields and specifically of biological control. Farmers' ecological knowledge was subsequently linked to pest management decision-making and their training background in IPM. Fall armyworm populations in Honduran subsistence maize were low, with infestation remaining below regionally defined economic thresholds. FAW infestation was mainly determined by altitude and in-field abundance of natural enemies. Associations were found with FAW population dynamics for various predators including ants, earwigs, social wasps, spiders and ground beetles. The earwig Doru taeniatum (Dohrn) comprised up to 70% of the predator complex observed in maize. In-field predator abundance was linked to features of the extra-field environment. Earwigs reached high abundance in fields surrounded by grasslands, while spiders and ground beetles were common in fields embedded in late-successional habitat. Farmers responded to the FAW pest situation by refraining from pest management action when unnecessary. Local knowledge of biological control only partially reflected the ecological processes occuring within their fields, with farmers' tendency to draw on the role of abundant, conspicuous or culturally important predatory organisms. Increased understanding of the ecological concepts underpinning biological control was related to increased knowledge of pesticide alternatives and lowered likeliness to revert to unsustainable pest management. IPM training strengthened farmers' knowledge, molding it partially to its environmental context. My research has broader implications for the design of IPM extension packages in developed and developing countries.
O'Neil, Purdue University.
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