Mr. Debal Deb & community
Debal Deb and his community in India have developed a technique of Integrated Pest Management using Leaf stitching red ants (Oecophylla Smaragdyna) that are native to the region. Red ants are effective predators of several insect larvae that damage rice and vegetable crops. These red ants do not bite, but spray formic acid on their enemies to kill. Red ants most commonly build their nests in trees including Sal (Shorea robusta), Mango, (Mangifera indica), and Mahua (Madhuca indica).
Farmers make use of the red ant for pest control by collecting leaf nests and placing them in different parts of their rice fields. Once placed on the ground, the ants begin moving out of their nests to explore the new environment. Placing the nest on the ground is enough to motivate the ants to find a suitable and tree build a new nest in the air. The ants climb every erect plant in the area in the process. During this exploration, they attack and kill any insect larva they encounter. The larval pests are eradicated from a large part of a farm plot in a short period of time. The availability of ants in the field attracts insectivore birds and lizards, introducing a secondary phase of pest control by these predators without decimating the ant population.
A Growing Culture partnered with Debal Deb and Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and Basudha Trust in Odisha, India, to document this technique, safeguarding the knowledge for generations to come.
Debal and his community have realized a number of benefits thanks to the introduction of the red ants. First, this natural form of pest control allows farmers to kill insect predators without the use of synthetic insecticides. This safeguards the environment and protects the farmer from any potential mishandling of the harmful chemicals. It also effectively guards the community against exposure to these chemicals. Secondly, Debal and his community are seeing economic benefits of the technique. This innovative form of pest management eliminates the need for inputs; it uses locally-available (and free) resources thus saving the farmer money. Additionally, the successful elimination of the pests also means a greater percentage of crops are harvestable. This increases income and enhances food security. Debal’s farmer innovation is now being used on many farms across Odisha.