These days we are experimenting with lots of methods for urban farming in Kathmandu. Beyond the obvious considerations of space (for cultivation) and resource (such as seed, water), there are numerous concerns about pest control.
Conventional approach would simply mean heading over to the nearest agri-service shop and purchasing processed chemical insecticides*. In a reductionist view of pest control, chemical insecticides seem a great fix. However, in a comprehensive view of pest control, chemical insecticides compromise the soil fertility and affect other beneficial plant/animal lives that form the farm ecosystem, even in the urban context. Add the information asymmetry of production of chemical fertilizers and centralized processing of chemicals used, the framework of Open Biotecture considers chemical insecticide a non-option.
So, where do we head next? Can we prepare, in our households, effective means to control pest attack? The answer, simply, is yes. There seems to be numerous on-line resources to collect ideas on non-chemical interventions. Over the next months, we will present our research and conclusions on the effectiveness of these processes. At the risk of generalization, the following are the three major approaches to pest control through localized means:
- Introduce microorganisms to remove suitable habitats of pest
- Introduce predators to prey on the pests
- Use products/solutions with ‘foul’ taste that inhibit pest attack
Of course, many applications for pest control use these approaches collectively, for the aforementioned categories are more continuous than discrete.
In early May, Open Biotecture attended a three-day workshop at the Everything Organic Nursery located in Kavre, a district southeast of Kathmandu valley. Over the duration of the workshop, a lot of ideas were discussed regarding soil quality and pest control.
One popular method is the use of Effective Microorganism (EM) solution. EM1 solution – available in the market for NRs. 100 (USD 1.25) per litre – contains several bacterias such as photosynthetic bacteria, lactic acid bacteria, yeast, and other microorganism. Surprisingly, there are quite few on-line resources to prepare EM1 solution from scratch. For research purposes, we used the solution from the market, but we aim to prepare EM1 solution ourselves once we determine its usability.
A simple pest control solution contains EM1 Solution (1 litre), molasses (1 kilogram), and 20 litres of water**. This solution mix is called the EM activated solution since the bacterias start decomposing the molasses and become fully active. The solution mix is kept in containers at 20-30 degree Celsius and the container lid should be opened twice a day to release the built-up gas and to provide aeration. Within 2-4 weeks, depending on the temperature of the mix, the activated solution has a sweet fruity smell and is ready for application. For each 1 litre of the activated solution, one adds 20 litres of water. Consequently, you can prepare 440 litres of total activated solution that is useful for composting, pest control, and cleaning your house.
In subsequent posts, we will mention several ways to prepare bio-insecticides and pest repellents.
*I find the use of ‘chemical’ in chemical insecticides quite vague and non-descriptive since all type of insecticides have chemicals in them.
**The amount of water does not necessarily have to be 20 litres, but – obviously – larger quantity of water will render the activated solution more dilute.