Saturday, December 31, 2011

How to conduct sprays at home garden and in agricultural work

Use of spray chemicals properly

In countries like India where the farming sector employs over 52% or the population the focus is on production at any cost. This is because farmers have small land holding and want to maximize their production and government is focused on growing majority of the produce with in the country rather than spend foreign currency to import food. There is nothing wrong with these goals. However what is becoming more and more obvious through reports in new papers is that safety is being ignored. Ignoring safety is not just a individuals problem it is country's, society's and family's problem too.

For a country which ignores the safe use of chemicals it has to face problems like that caused by Endosulfan resulting in over 4000 victims of cancer just in the Kerala state alone. Let us just look at the cost of unsafe spraying practices. First of all let us assume about 1000 of these people were farmers and these people had land holding of 2 acres. Let us assume they produce rice of about 1tonne each in the 2 acres. That means 1000 tonnes of rice. Now let us assume the cost of this rice is about 25 rupees per kilo retail. Therefore cost of 1 tonne of rice is about rupees 25,000. Now the 1000 tonne of rice will be worth 25,000,000.

Next the country because of the damage caused to these individuals has paid compensation. Even if each of these people was paid only 100000 rupees or 1 lak, that would be 1000 laks. Added to these is the cost of treatment for each of these individuals in public hospitals.

Next let us look at the family. The kids may not get proper education or nutrition due to this lack of safety. The wife may have to work in the fields and may not able to look after the kids properly. This of course will impact on the immediate society.

Below is the image of brain cancer MRI taken from a agricultural worker in Kashmir where the researchers found over 30 different pesticides were used. Among them was endosulfan too.
Brain cancer and pesticide relationship in orchard farmers of Kashmir. Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Year : 2010, Volume : 14, Issue : 3, Page : 78-86.

How to spray safely (head covered, hair covered, body legs hands fully covered and gloves worn)

How not to spray ( body exposed, hair, head and eyes exposed to the spray)

Body hair is one of the best absorbers of chemicals. Many of the insecticides are neurotoxins especially those which are used for agricultural purposed. Some of these chemicals used at home although at a lower toxicity levels care should be taken to read the labels to ensure right Personal Protective Equipment is worn.

Can one avoid using pesticides especially at home?

Yes there are many ways to reduce the insect damage in veggie patches. Use plants like Basil and marigold interspersed among the vegetables to reduce insect damage. The compounds emitted by marigold is a natural preventative of insect invasion. Basil attracts bees which once again prevent other insects from attacking your veggie patch.

Basil flowers with bees

Marigold Plant

One can use netting to prevent insects from attacking your vegetable plants or fruit trees. 

In addition to these one can use sprays such as Neem oil at the rate of 5mls to a liter once in 10 days to reduce insect damage. Neem oil has been used in countries like India and is a known insecticide. It is not harmful as neem leaf can be eaten (although bitter) and the oil can be applied on the skin. Unlike other insecticides it is not harmful although use of gloves, sunglasses, hat and a dust mask may be prudent.  Neem also kills juveniles and prevents further hatching from attacking repeatedly.

One homemade spray recipe to use is very simple.

5 broken cigarettes
5 dry chillies
1 spoon of oil
1 liter of water

Mix all of the above and leave it for about 2 weeks.

Use the mixture at 10mls to a liter and spray on plants. Ensure you wear gloves and glasses to prevent chili from entering the eye.


People should undertake training to conduct sprays properly. Read labels and Material Safety Data sheets prior to conducting sprays. Labels are stuck to the spray bottles. Material Safety Data Sheets should be provided by the reseller as a hard copy or will be on the Internet.

As a precaution use personal protective equipment when spraying.
These kinds of things are highly preventable. I have used some images downloaded from the internet to illustrate how to use sparys either at home or in fields.

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