There is a need for trans-boundary disease management across the countries to prevent the spreading of diseases from one country to another.

Taking note of the complaints of contamination of natural resources and health hazards due to the use of chemical pesticides, Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board chairman Gurubachan Singh on Tuesday called for benchmarking application of each variety of pesticide by periodical monitoring of its impact on human beings, animals and environment through sample tests.

“Any new pesticide is allowed to be released only after a statutory testing. But despite this mechanism, there is a hue and cry over how these pesticides affect health and environment after they are tried for a few years. Hence, there is a dire need to benchmark their applications by taking up sample testing every year or two to know their impact on environment, humans and animals,” Dr. Singh said while inaugurating a three-day national symposium on “Blending conventional and modern plant pathology for sustainable agriculture”, organised jointly by the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Indian Phytopathological Society and University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore.

He said that such a benchmarking initiative would help monitor the impact of pesticides on health and environment so that any remedial measures could be taken up at the earliest if there were problems.

He said that such a measure was a must to build and record data related to the impact of pesticides on environment. Dr. Singh, who was a co-chairman of the Supreme Court-appointed committee to know the impact of endosulfan, recalled that there was no data available for this committee when it tried to know the impact of endosulfan.

He asked plant pathologists to involve multi-disciplinary experts, including geologists, environmentalists and agro meteorologists, besides stakeholders such as farmers and NGOs while deciding on pesticides.

He stressed the need for trans-boundary disease management across the countries to prevent the spreading of diseases from one country to another.

UAS, Bangalore, Vice-Chancellor K. Narayana Gowda observed that plant pathologists had played a key role in increasing the country’s food production to 251 million tonnes.

He underscored the importance of weather-based monitoring and forecasting of diseases.

IIHR Director Amrik Singh Sidhu and Indian Phytopathological Society president R.K. Khetrapal spoke.

Several veteran plant pathologists were honoured.

The symposium in which about 250 plant pathologists from different parts of the country are participating would come out with a recommendation on eco-friendly methods of controlling plant diseases in a bid to increase food production.

Crop loss

At a time when nearly one-third of the population is starving and 40 per cent of children suffer from malnourishment in the country, food crops worth Rs. 90,000 crore are being lost every year due to diseases and pests. IIHR’s Plant Pathology Division Principal Scientist P. Chowdappa said that the crop losses due to diseases ranged from 12 per cent to 30 per cent. He called for putting in place a strong bio-security measure to prevent the spreading of plant diseases from other countries through imports of fruits and vegetables.