There are many field experiments that could be carried out by farmers during an FFS. It will depend on the situation which experiments are the most appropriate. The facilitator will consider the questions asked by farmers during the first meetings and based on this select, together with the farmers, one or more field experiments. Here are some examples of experiments that are often used during field schools:
Simulate insect damage by cutting parts of the leaves or by removing shoots or tillers. This type of experiment demonstrates that crop plants can compensate for some damage, by producing new leaves or shoots. Farmers who experience this will be more confident to tolerate some damage.
Use of traps
Set up some traps to study insect populations. For example light traps, yellow sticky traps, or pitfall traps. This can be used to monitor pest populations, but it could also be used as an experiment to see if pests can be controlled with the traps (e.g. control flea beetles in Chinese kale with yellow sticky traps).
Discover how natural enemies can keep pest populations under control. Set up two or more field cages; one with only pests (e.g. Brown Plant Hoppers on rice), and one with pests and natural enemies (e.g. Brown Plant Hoppers together with some spiders).
Use of botanical pesticides and bio-pesticides
Study how botanical pesticides (e.g. Neem) or bio-pesticides (Bt, NPV, Steinernema, Trichoderma) can be used to manage pest populations. For example set up small experiments where Neem is compared with plots that are unsprayed.
Compare plots with and without mulching and see how this has an effect on the development of plants, insects, and diseases.
Compare different levels of plant spacing and see how the crop plants develop under different conditions. The differences in plant density have an effect on the micro-climate and we can learn how this has an effect on development of pests and diseases.
Set up small plots with different levels of fertilizer use. Compare use of synthetic fertilizer (NPK) with organic fertilizers (compost or manure).
Release of natural enemies
Use predators or parasitoids that are available from pest management centers (PMC) and release them in the IPM plots. Use for example: earwigs, assassin bugs or Trichogramma wasps.
Compare crop varieties
Compare different varieties of the same crop and study how they differ. Pay special attention to differences in pest resistance or tolerance.
Compare monoculture with multiple cropping systems. Try intercropping with plants that are known to stimulate natural enemies (e.g. beans or other flowering plants) or use plants that repel insects (e.g. citronella).