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.
What is IPM: a concise abbreviation for a comprehensive approach
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.
Why chemical crop protection products are dangerous?
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:
- Environmental pollution (soil, air, water) – pesticides require time to split into less aggressive components, and some of them tend to accumulate. These chemicals are washed with rains, transferred with underground waters, evaporate from the soil surface and come into the atmosphere when sprayed with manned and unmanned aerial vehicles.
- Harm for humans – harmful chemical compounds induce health issues in people.
- Danger for animals – pesticides kill non-target (beneficial or harmless) species that habituate in the fields or orchards.
- Unintended effect on the end product – excessive usage burns leaves and roots, causes plant fading, and crops tend to store dangerous amounts of pesticides harmful for consumers.
- Pest resistance – pests develop resistance when substances are applied continually. That requires greater dosage and new pesticide types. The scenario runs the worst when pests taste the poison and prefer it more than their usual source of nutrition, beyond all scientists’ expectations.
Ecosystem changes when one element in the food chain is destroyed.
Integrated pest management methods
Harm from applying agricultural chemistry explains why it is the last step that agrarians take only when all the others are inefficient.
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:
- tilling to destroy weeds or eggs/larvae;
- covering/mulching to eliminate weed growth with the absence of sunlight;
- physical removing/picking out;
- steaming soils to kill pathogenic bacteria causing plant diseases;
- constructing screens for birds and insects;
- building fences around fields or putting traps as natural barriers for wild animals;
- placing scarecrows in the fields.
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:
- Crop rotation when alternative crops are improper for pests damaging other groups of plants. For example, rodents threaten grain yields, birds and snails damage strawberries, potato beetles attack potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants. If the habitat is not acceptable and there are no preferred nutrients, pests will leave for more lucrative places.
- Changes in irrigation: excessive water saturation provokes root diseases.
- Plant conservation/quarantine when a crop is isolated until it is mature enough to resist the pest threats.
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:
- to minimize their harm for non-targeted organisms (humans, animals, and crops);
- ensure a durable effect without developing pests’ resistance;
- treat only the problem areas, not the entire field.
Crop Monitoring has a plan for efficient pest control
An integrated pest management plan includes several basic steps common in every situation:
- Checking the area for pest presence and determining, which of the following is not a sign of possible pest infestation: species, numbers, infested terrains, volume of damage.
- Identification of pest hazard warrants taking proper measures to eradicate dangerous pests, combining different methods and eliminating the chemical control consequences.
- Result assessment allows making conclusions to understand either the treatment was efficient or not.
- Prevention of infestation in the future will save costs and resources for treatment proper.
How does it work with Crop Monitoring?
- The platform monitors your fields in real time with satellite imagery and provides vegetation index charts.
- Altered vegetation indices signal a problem. In particular, when the NDVI index drops, there is a great probability that this is because of high pest numbers.
- The system is able to set a scouting task to check the terrain more precisely and with a scout app confirm the issue. It immediately notifies you about the urge of pest management, enabling you to make a timely decision to treat the crops and save the yields.
- Specification of infested areas and differentiated application of plant protection products minimize the damage for humans and nature as chemicals are used only when it is really necessary.
Thus, you are aware of the problem once it arises. An early assessment allows you to address it promptly and resolve it with maximum success.