Neem oil (Azadirachta indica A. Juss) alone and combined with the entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana (Balsamo) Vuillemin (isolate Bb11) was applied to control cotton pests. The efficacy of these treatments was compared with that of synthetic insecticides applied either in a calendar-based application or in the ‘Lutte Etagée Ciblée’ (LEC) strategy, consisting of using first calendar-based (half-dose) applications followed by threshold-based treatments. The experiment was carried out in collaborative research with farmers in three cotton agro-ecological zones differing in rainfall, pest prevalence, and farming practices. The neem oil and neem oil-Bb11 treatments required 2 to 6 applications, while conventional and LEC received 6 to 8 applications. The percentage of damaged reproductive organs in plots treated with neem oil and neem oil plus Bb11 was higher than that recorded under the conventional and LEC strategy, with exception of the zone with the highest rainfall; this resulted in yields being 25% and 39% lower, respectively. Yields in the biopesticide plots were 26–42% higher and in the conventional and LEC plots 44–59% higher than those in the control plots that received only water. Overall, the LEC regime scored best, both in yield and profitability. The incidence of natural enemies was highest in the control and in the plots treated with biopesticides. Although the use of entomopathogen Bb11 and neem oil avoids many problems associated with the application of synthetic insecticides, their efficacy needs to be enhanced by improved formulation or by combining them with other pesticides.
- threshold-based interventions
- helicoverpa-armigera hubner
- entomopathogenic fungi