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India has a long way to go before it can go Green with organic pest control systems but the evolution has begun, says Suresh Nair – Interim CEO, ISS Hicare & VP, IFS

More and more people are making conscious efforts to use chemicals responsibly. Taking the lead, many in the food processing industry have adopted the National Organic Programme standards and are also implementing Green Pest Management (GPM), which is a relatively new concept in India. The industry, over the last two decades, has moved towards practicing integrated pest management (IPM), which is at the heart of “green” practices.

While IPM is still catching up, there are many issues facing the implementation of GPM, right from creating awareness to making available green pest control products. Suresh Nair, says, “We have created a comparative chart addressing the dos and don’ts of GPM methodology to help reduce the dependence on inorganic elements in pest control. The design concepts and programmes befit the customers’ EHS guidelines and work towards a common perspective. Value added workshops can go a long way in educating end users/customers on the importance of GPM and its implementation.”

In many cases, wrong practices have also negated the effects of green pest control. It is important to follow IPM for effective green practices. IPM isn’t obtainable unless the customer practices responsible sanitation, exclusion and physical and cultural pest control on a routine basis. The non-chemical strategies that should be included are:

Sanitation: Remove clutter and keep areas clean to remove harborage and food sources.

Exclusion: Use tight-fitting door sweeps, keep window and door screens in good condition, screen vents and seal holes.

Physical controls: Use traps and put susceptible food products in cool rooms that won’t promote pest infestations.

Cultural controls: Use proper storage and stock rotation.

The dearth of eco-friendly pest control products in India can be viewed as another dithering factor in the implementation of green practices. “There are several reasons to it. Despite India being the mother of all green inventions, we have adopted the chemical pest control aped from the West, whether for the Farming Sector or Urban Pest Management. The West in turn has aped our traditional practices to combat global warming.

“Some of the products that are made available in India include Aloe Vera, Lemon Grass, Brassica juncea (Samrani) & Marigold to name a few. Proper extraction from plants can help synthesizing the same with sufficient aid and assistance from the Horticultural Council and NABARD,” says Suresh Nair. GPM internationally is moving at a much faster pace compared to the conventional plant extract solutions available in India. Plant extracts form a major part of pest control solutions adopted by the hospitality sector, commercial offices and in residences in India.

“It is important to change the mindsets of the Governmental Bodies and the Regulatory Ideals to promote safe pest control” –  Suresh Nair

Some green solutions practiced by the hospitality industry include natural / organic products neem oil, clove oil, lemongrass oil, etc. “There are also pesticides that use plant extracts for cockroach control. But the problem with such products lies in the smell it emanates,” says Suresh.

Plant extract-based solutions also tend to leave stains on the walls because of the green chlorophyll content. These products have to be used very carefully. “Today, we do use products which include the world’s first pesticide made out of plant extracts called pyrethrum. It finds common usage in the food handling section of restaurant and hotel kitchens. There are plant extracts that repel mosquitoes and can safely be sprayed on plants. This repellant has limited effect as the mosquitoes come back after a while.

“There are insect growth regulator pesticides too. Though not totally organic, they retard the growth of the pest when it is developing from the egg to a larva. They do not come out openly into adults obviously because of weak structure and perish before developing. These pesticides are available in India but are highly expensive. They are usually used in mosquito control.

Lemon grass oil is commonly used as a room scent diffuser but also acts as mosquito repellant. Two drops of lemon grass in the water in an elegant container with a T-candle adds to the ambience, spreads aroma and keeps mosquitoes at bay. There is an array of such oil based products in the market today.

Advantages of Green products

There are both advantages and disadvantages of GPM. “LEED certification clearly states that there is no need to reduce the usage of the normal pesticide. If the present usage is 100ml it can be reduced gradually. For example, if you are spraying a solution between 5ml and 15ml, from 15ml one can’t directly reduce to 5ml. One has to gradually reduce to 10ml and then 5ml over a period of three months or so,” explains Suresh.

One more disadvantage of plant based products unlike the other products is the frequency of treatment. If a normal product is sprayed every month or every three months, in the case of green products, one will need to spray every fortnight or so. Gradually, the usage of normal products can be reduced.

While there is a general demand for green products, there is a lot of education involved in making the end users understand on how these products actually work. People generally believe that by keeping plants like lemon grass or marigold, mosquitoes can be kept at bay. These do not by themselves repel mosquitoes but it is the extract from the plants which is used as a pest control product and not the plants themselves.

Since the exposure to green products is limited, many are not convinced that green products are effective enough. “We brief them about the product and explain its limitations and usage.” The problem with most customers is that they want immediate results. People need to be made aware that for the effective utilization of green products, proper implementation of IPM is necessary. But many do not realize or practice IPM.

“However, GPM is the future and we cannot deny it,” says Suresh. Everybody is now looking at better solutions. “In the next 10 years, there will be more green products in the market and more solutions.” The West has developed a lot of products, and many products are being evolved in India too. The solutions already available need to be explored as well.

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