NEED FOR CAUTION IN USE OF AGRO-CHEMICALS

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A modern strategy that has facilitated large scale farming or eased farming for small scale farmers and increased farm yield is application of agro-chemicals. These range from fertilizer to herbicide and insecticide.

Of special concern here is use of herbicide and insecticide by farmers which has become common across Nigeria in recent years. This trend has been due to ready availability, comparative cheapness of these agro-chemicals and increased awareness among farmers.

It is a fact that application of herbicide greatly reduces the labour associated with land preparation for planting as well as weeding of the farm. The herbicide differs in its effect on plants. There are those that destroy virtually all plants without discrimination. These are best used for land preparation before planting.

For other types of herbicides, they destroy some plants considered as weed and leave others. This category is applied for weeding or after planting.

In all these cases, the application of herbicide leaves the farmer with far little job of simply tending to the crops which requires less manual labour. It also greatly reduces for the farm crops the competition for water, soil nutrients and sun-shine which with a fertile land or fertilizer and good rainfall ensures high yield. Equally, the farmer using herbicide has, the liberty to cultivate larger parcel of land.

As for insecticides, they help greatly in killing and discourage breeding of destructive insects to farm crops that can in worse cases devastate the farm and greatly reduce farm yield.

It is therefore understandable that even government, relevant organizations and experts encourage Nigerian farmers to take up the application of agro-chemicals. Of course many farmers with the purchasing power are now applying agro-chemicals in Nigeria and the practice is spreading with good result in terms of farm yield.

It is at this point that there is the need for caution. In fact many experts and environmentalists have started raising alarm on abuses and even the harmful side effects of use of herbicide and insecticide on farms.

These concerns have basis. The mass media have reported cases of outbreak of health problems characterized by acute vomiting and diarrhoea. This has been traced to herbicide or insecticide on application running into water points such as ponds which are used by people and animals.

In such situation, even aquatic organisms like fish and toad have in worse cases died from the effects of agro-chemicals. Even human beings from the careless use of agro-chemicals have died or developed serious health complications because they did not put on respirators while spraying their farms.

In the same vein, surrounding plants, domestic and wild animals, birds and others have died from inhaling insecticide carried around during spraying of farms or on eating of plants sprayed with these substances. There is then the effect of these chemicals on the farm crops.

Analysis  have confirmed that harmful residues of herbicide and insecticide remain in farm crops and even the farm produce. This situation in Nigeria has reached the stage whereby some countries like China banned importation of beans from the country because of the harmful chemical properties found in them after laboratory analysis.

Worse of all is the effect of herbicide and insecticide on the soil. It has been confirmed that these chemicals kill very important organisms in the soil which determine fertility. On practical occasions, earth-worms have crawled out and died after application of herbicide on farms and these creatures are important for the soil.

Considering all these harmful side effects, the relevant authorities and experts need to draw the attention of farmers to over-use of agro-chemicals. The point is that even in developed countries, there are stringent regulations guiding the use of these chemicals.

For this reason, agricultural research institutes, relevant experts and government departments in Nigeria have to gather at a summit to clearly examine the use and outline guidelines for application of herbicide and insecticide on farms in Nigeria which should be firmly enforced.

Very important is the need to intensively educate farmers on safety measures and harmful effects of over-use or other abuses associated with application of agro-chemicals. The mass media and traditional forms of communication as well as extension workers, community and religious leaders have to be put to good use in this regard.

 

The fact remains that government and relevant bodies have to explore and encourage use of alternatives to herbicide and insecticide in farming. Providing relevant machinery which can ease land preparation and introducing resistant crop varieties are ways of achieving this goal. There are others.

On the whole, time has come to make Nigerian farmers understand that over-use and dependence on agro-chemicals poses danger to the eco-system and human beings in the long run.

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AUTHOR:      ALLENI ETHAN DAH

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