The balanced use of organic and inorganic products offer the best results, given local conditions, a study commissioned by the Dutch Embassy in Sri Lanka on the island’s horticulture sector said.
The study titled ‘Opportunities in the Horticulture Sector in Sri Lanka’ and released on the Embassy’s website last Wednesday (18), further said the Department of Agriculture (DOA) has over the last two decades conducted research on the use of such organic products with varying results.
In addition to pests and diseases, weeds have posed a big threat for crop cultivation in Sri Lanka, the report said. Approximately 940 kilolitres and 140 tonnes of herbicides were imported by Sri Lanka in 2019 (DOA), the report said.
Recent need for solutions is the emergence of invasive weed species (Eg: Kalanduru Cyperus Rotundus etc.,) for which no effective solution has yet been found, the study warned. Meanwhile, tea plantations amongst the larger tea farmers and tea smallholders (accounting for 70 per cent of total tea plantations) require soil remediation and yield improvement solutions consequent to the ban on chemical fertiliser and crop protection products, the report cautioned.
Nevertheless, Sri Lanka is taking a bold step to completely ban all chemical fertilisers and crop protection products whether for use in conventional agriculture or modern agriculture such as in greenhouses, etc., it added. As a result, huge opportunities present themselves for organic fertilisers and plant protection products, the study further said.
The application of poultry manure for reducing root-knot nematode attacks, polythene sleeves for fruit fly control, pheromone traps and the use of botanicals such as seed or leaf extracts of neem, garlic and many other plant species are some of the alternative pest control strategies used. However, these technologies need to be made commercially viable based on the feedback from horticulture companies and lead farmers, the report advised.
Meanwhile, farmers and horticultural companies are aware of the health and environmental hazards due to the excessive use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers, the report said. As a result, horticultural companies comment that availability of targeted and non-chemical crop protection products would provide clear advantages, particularly for export of horticultural products from Sri Lanka, the study also added.
Consequently, the recent banning of all chemical fertilisers and crop protection products provides opportunities for novel solutions for growing of crops in greenhouses and through protected agriculture, it said. With the recent immediate ban on chemical fertilisers and crop protection products, Government of Sri Lanka policies are being revamped to encourage imports of organic inputs, but this has not yet been formalised at the time of writing, the report however said.
“In Sri Lanka, issues have begun, due to the misuse of chemical fertilisers in major growing areas such as the mid country which has led to groundwater pollution, fixation of nutrients and increase of residues of nitrate, etc.,” the study elaborated. “Chronic kidney disease has spread in the North Central Province and adjacent farming areas due to heavy usage of phosphate fertiliser along with the pesticides (Glyphosate) which are the main source of arsenic in the affected areas,” the study further said.