Agricultural Pest Control Alternatives


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Food production for large populations brings the necessity of pest control methods. There is little room for crop loss in high demand food areas. Loss of produce also causes loss of income for major food producers. Washing fresh produce only partially removes pesticide toxins from fruits and vegetables. With more health-conscious people on the hunt for organic alternatives, farmers are starting to explore pesticide alternatives.

Biological

Biological methods are based on the use of plants and insects that counter the invasive species. Predatory insects are released to eliminate the offending ones. This must be carefully monitored so the predators do not become overpowering. Pathogens are also used in biological pest control to ward off weeds and other invasive plant life. Complications can follow if proper research is not done prior to using this method. Insects and pathogens can be brought in quickly when a problem arises.

Trap Crops

Trap cropping is a method used in purely organic farming that can be integrated into farms wishing to lessen their pest control use. There are many plants that attract certain pests. Once the problematic insect is identified, a plan can be implemented. The crop to be used as a trap is planted away from the staple crops. The insects caught by the trap crops must be removed from the area to ensure a safe growing space and allow for more trapping. Simple methods such as blowing or vacuuming are used to accomplish this. This manual deterrence and removal process demands more involvement and labor. The results of the extra effort, however, allow for safe and thriving crops.

Polyculture

Polyculture involves the introduction of various plants into a single production area. The goal is to mimic a crop’s natural environment. This approach allows for a natural means of pest reduction. Pests are limited in the wild due to natural predators and repellants. This approach to natural pest control requires more physical labor and the purchase of extra plants. Studies have shown that even small variations in items planted contribute to increased output and health. The layout of the crops varies. Instead of repetitive rows of the same crop, different types of plants inhabit the area. This allows for proper amounts of the item to be produced while adhering to some natural standards.

Crop Rotation

Crop rotation has limited effects, depending on the pests in question. The developmental cycle of some insects works in their favor. Spring crops are susceptible to extremely mobile pests that are emerging from their winter habitats. Many insects also retreat for the winter and return with a vengeance during growing season. Crop rotation, however, can be useful in deterring pests that take up residence in the soil and on the perimeters of planting areas. These pests settle in for the winter and take over once the new crops are presented. The crop must be moved well out of the insect’s flight or crawling range. This tactic may also be used in coordination with trap cropping or placement of deterring plants.

Bacteria and Viruses

The introduction of bacteria and viruses to the existing insects is a natural way to kill them. The virus or bacteria used are dependent on host insects for infection. This method works best when implemented in the early stages of insect discovery. The disease may take several days to eliminate pests. Once a virus is introduced, however, it may remain active in the soil long-term. Viral particles on plants are dissipated by the natural effects of sunlight, however. Once the disease has taken hold of the pest community, it is able to spread rapidly. The situation must be monitored regularly, as resistance can occur over time. This approach is unique, as it damages the insects without damaging humans or wildlife.

Natural pest control is a necessity among organic farmers. Consumers are willing to pay higher prices for the assurance of pesticide free produce. Widespread knowledge of the health dangers of pesticides has increased the demand for safer produce.  These methods are recently being integrated into non-organic farms, as well. These efforts are beginning the process of lowering the use of pesticides. A combination of natural pest control methods is the best way to reach success in this endeavor.

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