Exposure to a wide variety of pests and diseases is inevitable during plant growth, especially where the farming conditions have weaknesses. Although using healthy soil and consistent crop rotation are among the ways farmers use to minimize the insect’s threat, growers never stop complaining of minor pests eating their crops’ productivity despite the high fertility of their soil.
The reason is that some factors (such as over-fertilized soil, monoculture, plants set too close together) are likely to adversely affect our plants making them indefensible and vulnerable to diseases.
Therefore, agriculturalists need functional and effective techniques to fight off the universe’s barrage of environmental stressors to their crops. Curious to find out the remedy? It is “Pest Control”. Pest control is a broad topic. Writing about it would fill a few books; therefore, this article focuses on green pest management.
What’s Green Pest Control?
Green pest control or organic pest control is an effective and risk-free therapy for minimizing pest infections on crops and livestock without inflicting harm on the consumer’s health and the environment. Since prevention is better than cure, green pest management mainly aims at preventing insects from barraging our crops rather than killing their fungus.
Contrary to people’s belief, green pest management is chemical-based like other pesticides. Just that it utilizes earth-based substances(such as borates) which are eco-friendly, least toxic and safe in controlling pests.
Let’s say, your plant is infested by mites, a green knockdown spray like Neem oil or Pyrethrins will not only kill and prevent widespread contamination but also leaves no harm on the wildlife around you – your lovely pets. The chemicals are human-friendly and do not pollute the environment.
What is Integrated Pest Management?
Integrated pest management is a comprehensive system that allows farmers to overcome pest problems in an environmentally responsible way. It is the cornerstone of green pest management that combines different forms of biological, cultural, or chemical methods but minimizes the use of synthetic pesticides.
This method focuses on knowledge of the pest’s environment and therefore knowing its biology and ecology helps to prevent pest infection. Let’s say Integrated Pest Management is a system. So what are its components?
Components of Integrated Pest Management
1. Cultural Control Methods
This method emphasizes using either the right quantities of fertilizer or properly managing field hygiene.
Integrated pest management through cultural control is based on:
- Crop rotation, when alternative crops are not targeted by the existing pest. For example, rodents attack grain crops; birds and snails, strawberries; potato beetles, potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines. If the habitat is not conducive and they do not have food, the pests will go elsewhere.
- Changes in irrigation. Too much water causes diseases in the roots of plants.
- Plant conservation, or quarantine, is when a crop is isolated until it is mature enough to resist the threat of pests.
2. Biological Control Methods
It seeks to destroy pests as it happens in nature, using predators to kill pests that damage crops; for example, ladybugs reduce the number of aphids. This management method also involves parasitoids, pathogens, and herbivores.
It can be applied by increasing the population of predators in their primary habitat or by importing species from other regions. Exploiting allelopathic and pest-killing properties is also helpful.
In layman’s terms, it means using living organisms (goats, sheep, mites, etc) to suppress pests populations.
3. Chemical Control Methods
This control method of green pests comes into play to address the leakages of both the cultural and biological methods. It works as a supplement to the other approaches. Chemical control means using insecticides in a reasoned way to discourage pest establishment without inflicting any harm.
That is, where normally we make ten applications of insecticide, we reduce these applications of insecticide as much as possible to preserve the environment.
4. Physical / Mechanical Control
This integrated pest management option consists of:
- Tillage to destroy weeds or eggs/larvae;
- Weed cover to prevent further growth by depriving them of sunlight;
- Manual removal;
- Soil vaporization to eliminate pathogenic bacteria that cause plant diseases;
- Construction of screens against birds and insects;
- Construction of fences and/or placement of traps as a barrier against wild animals;
- Placing scarecrows in the fields.
Steps in Implementing IPM
1. Prevention and Suppression
In Integrated Green Pest Control, prevention is the first step in protecting crops from pests.
Prevention is based on observation: not every insect is necessarily harmful.
You can have pests on a plant, but until they reach a certain threshold, they are not considered harmful. So prevention means observing to determine the thresholds of the harmfulness of a pest and taking the measures necessary to control the pest.
2. Identification and Monitoring
Identification means recognizing the cause of harm you have in your garden or field and monitoring is knowing when this pest becomes harmful which is known from studies carried out in laboratories.
As part of a monitoring system, the appearance of animals, such as mice or insects, is detected at an early stage with the help of bait, sticky, or pheromone traps. The traps should be checked regularly and the results recorded in tables and a trapping plan.
As said earlier, not all pests are harmful. To some farmers, clover (herbaceous plants) adds to the soil fertility while others regard it as pests. Finding the balance between what contributes to the soil nutrients and what damages it can be achieved through detailed assessment.
Evaluation is a crucial step in IPM. It entails critical assessment to permit informed decisions and safeguard against resource mismanagement when done properly. The ability to document the viable practice from the less-viable ones will serve as a reference for future use.
Evaluating the results allows conclusions to be drawn to understand whether the treatment was effective or not and this aids planning for unforeseen circumstances.
Whether the organic method or using pesticides, each method has its advantages and drawbacks. The bottom line is to find the balance between the two methods of green pest control.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do organic farmers control pests?
Organic farmers employ various methods to control pests without relying on synthetic pesticides. These methods include crop rotation, which disrupts pest life cycles and reduces their populations. They also use natural predators, like beneficial insects and birds, to prey on pests.
Additionally, organic farmers implement physical barriers, such as nets or fences, to exclude pests from crops. Finally, they use organic-approved pesticides derived from natural sources, like plant extracts or beneficial bacteria, as a last resort if other methods are insufficient.
These strategies promote sustainable pest management while maintaining organic farming principles.
2. Difference between pest control and pest management?
The difference between pest control and pest management lies in their approaches and scope. Pest control typically refers to the use of chemical pesticides or other methods to eliminate or reduce pest populations. It focuses on immediate and often short-term solutions to eradicate pests.
On the other hand, pest management takes a broader perspective, aiming for long-term, sustainable solutions. It involves integrating various strategies such as cultural practices, biological controls, and targeted pesticide use, with an emphasis on minimizing environmental impact and promoting ecosystem balance.
Pest management seeks to prevent and manage pests while considering ecological, economic, and social factors.
3. What is pesticides?
Pesticides are chemical substances or mixtures used to control or eliminate pests that can damage crops, spread diseases, or harm humans and animals. They include insecticides (for insects), herbicides (for weeds), fungicides (for fungi), and rodenticides (for rodents).
Pesticides are designed to kill, repel, or inhibit the growth of pests, improving agricultural productivity and protecting public health. However, their use must be carefully managed to minimize potential risks to the environment, non-target organisms, and human health.Whats