The spread of disease and pests is one of the hidden consequences of climate change in the West Asia and North Africa region, and the threat posed by these constraints requires sustainable and practical control options that do not rely exclusively on chemical sprays, which are often costly and harmful to the environment.
An option being considered by the EU-IFAD initiative on wheat-legume systems is Integrated Pest Management (IPM), an environmentally-friendly approach to pest control that combines an extensive range of techniques to control and prevent the growth and spread and pest populations. It emphasizes the use of cultural and biological interventions, and supports the targeted use of pesticides only when alternative methods have been exhausted, costs are not excessive, and there is no threat to existing agro-ecosystems.
Efforts to promote IPM strategies in Morocco for cereal and legume production will help farmers to contain weeds, pests such as Hessian flies, and a series of destructive diseases: Rusts and Septoria on wheat, Botrytis on faba beans, and Ascochyta Blight on chickpea. These constraints pose a real problem to food production, causing losses of up to 30%. They also undermine the country’s ability to achieve wheat and food legume self-sufficiency, thereby exposing Morocco to costly food imports.
Extending IPM to Moroccan farmers is done via demonstrations on farmer fields and capacity building initiatives that teach producers how to identify diseases and pests and the optimal time to apply pesticides. So far, the demonstrations have yielded positive results and the different IPM techniques are showing significant promise and good adaptation to Moroccan conditions.
Experiments at two sites in the Zemmour-Zaer region, Roummani and Had Ait Mimoun, applied a package of interventions - Hessian fly resistant varieties, herbicides, and fungicides - in appropriate doses and time sequences to generate higher yields of bread wheat. The variety Arrihane yielded 6.2 t/ha, compared to only 4.4 t/ha on a neighboring farmer field where IPM control methods were not applied.
Orobanche was efficiently controlled on fields with faba beans, generating yields of 1.9 t/ha, compared to only 1.4 t/ha on fields with no control methods – this represented a 25% yield difference. Finally, chickpeas responded extremely well, with Ascochyta blight well controlled. Yields reached 1.9 t/ha compared to 1.0 t/ha on non-IPM plots.
Elsewhere, on plots in Marchouch, the introduction of an IPM package generated yields of 5.2 t/ha for the Hessian fly resistant bread wheat variety Arrihane, a significant improvement over the 2.0 t/ha achieved on a farmer field where no IPM control methods were applied. Subsequent observations revealed an insignificant presence of Fusarium wilt, Ascochyta blight, and rust diseases.
As the initiative progresses, more trainings will be held for Moroccan farmers to provide them with the knowledge and skills to fundamentally undermine the threat of pests and diseases on their fields.