Helpful Predators in Agriculture Essay
The effective way of managing insect pests is usually through the execution of multiple methods, these differing tactics are assimilated into a single method to keep the pests at an acceptable level. Execution of multiple methods minimizes the possibility of the pests in adapting to any of the single method. An apt definition of integrated pest management, according to Cornell University’s Biological Control, would be, “An ecologically based pest control strategy that relies heavily on natural mortality factors and seeks out control tactics that disrupt these factors as little as possible” (Weeden, Shelton, and Hoffmann).
These agricultural pests, according to Altieri and Nicholls, such as insects, nematodes, and weeds, are responsible for more than 30% damaged crop production worldwide annually. These losses had been consistent since the 1940’s, when farmers started using chemicals in order to control pests (10). These agrichemicals that have been used have its setbacks; they have proved to be costly to farmers, they are harmful to the environment and, despite its popularity, it had not proven to be 100% effective.
As mentioned in Organic Gardening magazine, insect-pests continued to be a problem mainly due to the pests’ resistance and their unusual ability to adapt to a single method control strategy (1992). Many farmers are now looking for a solution that is less dependent on agrichemicals and focused more on copying nature’s way of predatory system, among plants and insects. This method, known as ecological pest management, delegates the entire farm as a complete complex system.
This new method aims to keep the insect population at a manageable level with the use of many supporting or interdependent strategies, compared to the old method of aiming for the total eradication of every pest using one method for each pest. The method of ecological pest management uses forces that have been present in the natural world, longer even than the invention of agriculture itself. As plants develop their innate defense mechanism against pests, they were helped by factors within the ecosystem, such as: “1.
Insects that prey on crop insects and mites by eating or sucking their juices. 2. Helpful parasites that appropriate pests for food. 3. Organisms that cause diseases to insects, at times being fatal, and keep them from feeding or reproducing; these organisms also prey on weeds. 4. Helpful fungi and bacteria that stays on roots, thereby retarding advances of disease organisms” (Altieri and Nicholls, 11). Biological control is much like a living insecticide.
It is the employment of natural enemies with the purpose of managing pests. It usually involves manipulating an insect into attacking a pest insect. According to a report published by Sustainable Agricultural Network, the natural enemy may be a predator, a parasite, or a disease that will attack pests (78). Helpful predators belong primarily in the families of beetle, dragonfly, wasp, and bugs. Using chemical insecticides have been known to have eliminated these predators in farms.
It has been studied that pests like Tetranychid mites, for example, have been plentiful in apple plantations where pesticides have wiped out entire predators’ population (Altieri and Nicholls, 80). Almost all predators prey on a vast variety of insect species and on different life stages, thereby making them very useful in managing insect pests. Some of the most efficient predators are spiders, lady beetles, ground beetles, lacewings, minute pirate bugs, big-eyed bugs, and syrphid flies (Altieri and Nicholls, 86).
Conclusion Agriculture had been changing its ways, it has been steadily returning to nature for the answers it has long sought for. Insecticides and pesticides are gradually being stored in the shelves, resulting in a healthier soil, crops, and a healthier method of farming. Perhaps it is within the grand design, that when human ingenuity falters, we return to commune with nature. Works Cited Altieri, Miguel and Clara Nicholls. Manage Insects on Your Farm, A Guide to Ecological Strategies.
Beltsville, MD, Sustainable Agricultural Network, 2005. Meet the Beneficial Insects, Organic Gardening. 09 February 1992. Retrieved 09 April 2009.
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