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Control of Agricultural Pests

Integrated Pest-Control Systems

Integrated pest-control systems aim to integrate all forms of pest control rather than being reliant on one type.

The emphasis is on deciding an acceptable level of the pest rather than trying to eradicate it altogether.
Integrated control involves:

  • Choosing animal or plant varieties that suit the local area and are as pest-resistant as possible
  • Managing the environment to provide suitable habitats, close to the crops, for natural predators
  • Regularly monitoring the crops for signs of pests so that early action can be taken
  • Removing the pests mechanically by handpicking, vacuuming, and erecting barriers
  • Using biological agents if necessary and available
  • Using pesticides as a last resort if pest populations start to get out of control

How Controlling Pests Affects Productivity
Pests reduce productivity in agricultural ecosystems. Weeds compete with crop plants for water, mineral ions, carbon dioxide, space and light. As these are often in limited supply, any amount taken by the pest means less is available for the crop plant.

One or more of them may become the limiting factor in photosynthesis, and hence productivity. Insect pests may damage the leaves of crops, limiting their availability to photosynthesise and thus reducing their productivity.

Alternatively, they may be in direct competition with humans, eating the crop itself.

Many crops are now grown in monoculture, and this enables insect and fungal pests to spread rapidly. Pests of domesticated animals may cause disease.

The animals may not grow as rapidly, be unfit for human consumption or die – all of which lead to reduced productivity.

The aim of pest control is to limit the effects of pests on productivity to a commercially acceptable level. To balance the costs of pest control with the benefits it brings.

The problem is that at least two different interests are involved: the farmer who has to satisfy our demand for cheap food while still making a living, and the conservation of natural resources which will enable us to continue to have food in the future.