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PEST CONTROL AND MANAGEMENT Leave a comment

Pest accounts for a majority of loss in farming . 

Pest

In agricultural ecosystems, thousands or even millions of individuals of a single crop species are planted in a monoculture. To maximize the growth of the desired crop, we try to eliminate organisms that we consider pests. Pests are organisms that compete with or damage crop species. They reduce plant density, cause plant stunted growth and their death, cause lower production capacity, damage berries and in many other ways reduce the yield or quality of agricultural products. Agricultural pests are plants, animals and fungus that reduce crop yields. One of the most common ways to control or eliminate pests is to use poisons (pesticides). They work by causing physical or biological harm to the pest organisms and may interfere with biological processes, such as photosynthesis, or cause damage to vital organs. Alternatively, some pesticides are indirectly applied or can be sprayed on a plant and later consumed by an insect.

Types of Pests 

1) Insects:

These are important and major pests. Insects have three pairs of legs, two pairs of wings, segmented body and characteristic compound eyes and antennae. Insects are tricky and cause damage in different ways viz. sucking sap from plants, biting plant parts, boring in to fruits, twigs and leaves, attacking roots, barks and blossoms etc. The damaging stages of different insect pests are larvae, nymphs and adults.

2) Mites:

These are creatures like insect but have soft body and four pairs of legs. These tiny creatures have red or pale yellow colour. They suck the sap from the plant and attack the crops in huge number.

3) Rodents :

This group of pest eat away large amount of human food and also damage the crops on large scale. They are also responsible for heavy loss to stored grains on farms, in warehouses and houses.

4) Animals:

Animals like Wild Boar, Deer, Elephants, Wild Buffalo, Jackals, Monkeys, Squirrels cause direct damage to crop plants. They eat away the plants and by and large they waste huge amount of crops.

5) Birds:

Birds attack the crop plants and eat grains. Crow, Parrots and Sparrows are major among birds that attack the crops.

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Pest Management

Diseases, insects, and weeds can cause costly and irreparable harm to livestock and crops. Methods to manage these problems include the use of pesticides or biological pest control. Integrated pest management (IPM) couples both methods and includes monitoring to reduce the overuse of pesticide applications. IPM aims to develop and extend effective, affordable, and environmentally-sound control strategies.

What is Pest Management?

A pest species can be any species that humans consider undesirable. Any organism that reduces the availability, quality, or value of a human resource can be classified as a pest. This designation in no way reflects the organism’s role in the natural ecosystem but is more an indicator that they are in conflict with humans. Plant pests, also referred to as weeds, are included in the discussion of Non-native Invasive Plant Removal.

A pest in one area may not be considered a pest elsewhere. Often organisms rise to pest status because they escape normal control by natural regulating agents. This is achieved through direct or indirect importation to a new region or by human activities which reduce or eliminate the efficiency of their natural enemies. Without controls on population growth, organisms can rapidly achieve levels at which damage is caused thus becoming pests (e.g., locust swarms stripping landscapes bare). However, organisms do not need to exist in large numbers to be a pest. For example, the codling moth (Cydia pomonella) does not lay many eggs compared to many insects and often produces only one generation each year (Begon et al. 1996). However, because it blemishes apples, making them commercially undesirable, the codling moth is considered an important agricultural pest.

Pest management is therefore a means to reduce pest numbers to an acceptable threshold. An acceptable threshold, in most cases, refers to an economically justifiable threshold where application of pest control measures reduces pest numbers to a level below which additional applications would not be profitable (i.e., where additional costs of control exceed additional benefits). Pest eradication (i.e., complete removal) is usually not a viable option.

Methods of control can be categorized as chemical, biological, cultural, physical/mechanical, or genetic, and are discussed in further detail below.

  • Chemical – Chemicals (e.g., insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides) can be broad-spectrum (non-selective) or narrow-spectrum (selective) and can be organic or inorganic. Chemicals used to regulate pest abundance can act as nerve toxins (for insects and mammals) and growth regulators/inhibitors. Chemicals can also be used to affect pest abundance through more indirect means, such as releasing pheromones to disrupt breeding behaviour and interfere with mating. Chemical pesticides are often toxic to non-target organisms including the pest’s natural enemies, can persist in the environment affecting water supply, soil productivity, and air quality, and can be biomagnified in the food chain. Inappropriate use of pesticides can result in target pest resurgence from killing off natural enemies, secondary pest outbreaks by removing natural enemies of other organisms and allowing them to rise to pest status, and evolved resistance to the pesticide.
  • Biological – Due to any number of reasons, including those mentioned in the Chemical and Cultural sections, compromising the effectiveness of natural enemies often allows potential pest organisms to experience virtually unregulated population growth and enables them to reach pest status. Biological control involves the use of a pest’s natural enemies (e.g., predators, pathogens, parasites and parasitoids), to control pest abundance. Measures to conserve or enhance the impact of natural enemies should be attempted first. Perhaps biological control is most known for importation of natural enemies, often from the pest’s area of origin, to control non-native pests (e.g., importing vedalia bettles to control cottony cushion scales which were attacking California citrus orchards). A number of safeguards are necessary before implementing importation actions to ensure imported organisms will not pose additional threats to non-target organisms. A third approach to biological control involves augmenting natural enemies through rearing and periodic releases and can be inoculative (natural enemies are released early in the season) or innundative (natural enemies are released as a biological pesticide).
  • Cultural – The effectiveness of natural enemies can be compromised by human practices. Application of broad-spectrum pesticides which kill off natural enemies in addition to target pest species, the type of crop plant, the crop environment, and cropping practices. Modern crop varieties often inadvertently create conditions which favour pest species (e.g., pest species which have bored deeper into larger fruit making them inaccessible to natural enemies). Crops are often monocultures, consisting of a single crop species, which creates a homogenous habitat often lacking key requirements of natural enemies, thus favouring pest species. Moreover, many harvesting practices prevent natural enemies from persisting in annual crops. Examples of cultural practices that encourage natural enemies and discourage pest persistence include intercropping (multiple crops in the same field) to make it more difficult for pests to find a host plant, planting trap crops which attract pests away from harvest crops and which can later be treated with a select application of pesticides, and delaying planting times to coincide with times where pests have emerged and died off for the season.
  • Physical – Manual or mechanical removal or installation of physical barriers can be used to exclude pest species. Removal methods include use of animal traps, sticky cards for insects, manual removal of insects from plants (e.g., handpicking or spraying with a hose), removing diseased or infected materials (e.g., pruning branches or removing diseased litter). Physical barriers such as fences, nets, mulch, and tree trunk guards can exclude pests and reduce the damage they inflict.
  • Genetic – Genetic alteration to reduce pest impacts is not as widely known or publicly available as other control options. Autocide is one type of genetic control and involves using the pest itself to induce increased mortality rates. Sterile males are introduced into the population, which, after mating with females, creates infertile eggs. This is an expensive option with many limitations including potential for reduced competitive viability of the introduced sterile males versus naturally occurring fertile males. Straightforward genetic manipulation to create pest-resistant plant strains is another form of controlling pest impacts. However, genetic manipulation research and development is costly and introduces a whole other series of ethical and environmental issues that are not easily addressed. Genetic manipulation is not a viable control option for the general public.

IMPORTANCE OF PEST MANAGEMENT

Damage from pests often results in vast economic consequences. They threaten the health of our nation’s vital agricultural, natural lands, and urban areas. Among the adverse impacts are:

  • Infestation of farms, rangelands, and forests
  • Obstructions to streams and waterways
  • Damage to crops
  • Loss of wildlife habitats
  • Disease and quality of life impacts in populated areas.

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