Pests are a major hazard that damage crops and turn farmers’ efforts into a waste of time and resources. Thus, their control is a significant task that warrants serious treatment and timely response. Agriculture tackles the issue with integrated pest management.
IPM stands for integrated pest management that combines several tools and methods. When it comes to integrated pest management definition, we can elaborate it as certain measures to eliminate, kill or prevent pest numbers on agricultural areas with minimum harm for nature, people, and protected plants.
The term ‘pests’ relates not only to animals or insects proper but weeds and diseases as well. Their damage has a dramatically strong impact on yields, and sometimes, seedlings were destroyed completely. Pests attack plants from everywhere: rodents and nematode spoil roots in the earth, snails, and larvae destroy leaves and berries coming from the ground, and birds eat up fruit and seeds attacking from the air. The list won’t be complete without fungi, viruses, bacteria and other parasites, to mention a few.
The classification of pesticides features multiple groups of unwanted organisms that harm crops, with a certain pesticide type for each: herbicides, rodenticides, insecticides, animal repellents, avicides, nematicides, larvicides, bactericides, fungicides, antimicrobial substances, etc.
The key feature in the definition of pesticide is that it is a chemical remedy. The application of chemicals to kill pests is a common practice in many countries. However, there are several reasons why organic farming and sustainable agriculture principles recommend restraining from it:
Ecosystem changes when one element in the food chain is destroyed.
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Pesticide management science outlines the following major agricultural pest control methods:
Biological control – implies a typical way of destroying pests as it happens in nature. Predators kill their prey that damages crops, for example, ladybugs reduce aphid numbers. This method also involves parasitoids, pathogens, and herbivores. It is implemented either by boosting the predator population in their primary habitat or by importing beneficial species from other regions. Exploiting allelopathic and pest-killing properties are ultimately helpful in this respect, too.
With all obvious advantages, this approach has its flaws as well:
– ‘foreign’ predators may not cope with the task;
– introduced animals become pests themselves with time if there are no natural enemies to control their population in the new environment;
– reduction of certain species may give rise to secondary pest invasions.
A renowned example of a food chain error is the import of rabbits to Australia. With time, their population turned to be a real nuisance to farmers alongside indigenous kangaroos or dingoes. The cane toad is another case illustrating biological control failure in this regard when it refused to hunt the target species and became a pest itself.
However, the history of agronomy witnesses efficient results as well. The number of wild rabbits was significantly decreased with myxomatosis virus born by mosquitoes, provided the areas were abundant in them. In the regions with a lack of mosquitoes, the idea was implemented with a flea-borne virus.
Advanced integrated pest management employs innovative solutions. Thus, the Israeli company BioBee successfully eradicates Mediterranean fruit flies with sterile insect technology. It neutralizes males and releases them in nature. Their mating with wild fertile females results in no vibrant offspring. This solution is extremely helpful to orchard and vineyard owners in Israel.
Biopesticides are natural repellents containing plant extracts or oils. A classic remedy to tackle moths is the scent of lavender.
Physical/mechanical control involves:
Even though these solutions bring fruitful results at times, they are costly. In the case of Australia, even the highest fence would not hamper kangaroos capable of jumping three meters high. So, they are not always useful as well.
Cultural control utilizes:
Chemical control implies the usage of pesticides when the above-mentioned methods can’t efficiently combat the invasion or when their implementation is impossible due to certain circumstances. It is significant:
An integrated pest management plan includes several basic steps common in every situation:
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