The future of crop protection lies in IPM

Integrated Pest Management

Since the dawn of agriculture, farmers have been dealing with the challenges of managing pests, weeds and diseases that threaten our ability to produce enough safe and healthy food for the population. Thankfully the strategies to control pests have evolved over the years and continue to do so. New technologies and innovations have enabled, for instance, a reduction in the amount of pesticide needed to address a specific problem from kilograms per hectare in the 1960s to grams per hectare in certain instances today. And as these technologies progress, so do our agricultural practices to keep up with the global food demand, while considering societal expectations as well.

The future of pest control undoubtably lies within the domain of integrated pest management (IPM), meaning that we need to focus on managing pests effectively rather than just eliminating them. The first step in doing this is to grow a healthy crop that is more able to withstand the effects of pests than a weak or stressed crop. Many people believe that IPM means using different types of pesticides such as biologicals alongside synthetic pesticides, but IPM means using all suitable techniques or strategies to keep pests below levels that cause unacceptable crop loss. These different strategies could include mechanical or physical, cultural, biological, and chemical methods of pest management, as well as biotechnology. The choice of which pest management method to employ will depend on the crop and pest situation, as well as the availability of resources. This means that pesticides are applied only when necessary, and only in quantities that are required and that are approved for use.

The benefits of IPM are numerous, for instance the use of inputs is optimised, crop losses are reduced, biodiversity is maintained, crop production is sustainable and, importantly, pest resistance to crop protection solutions is managed. But it must be kept in mind that IPM is not a set package to be incorporated in the same way on every farm, rather it is location and condition specific, sometimes even down to the field level or crop growth stage.

Proper and regular inspections are fundamental to IPM. Early detection of any pest, weed or disease gives the farmer an opportunity to investigate alternative, less harsh methods of crop protection than if the pest, weed or disease has already grown to devastating populations. It also provides a farmer with intel because the information regarding threshold values for damage, and the life cycle of the pest, weed or disease, can be compared with previous seasons to determine the risk associated with the occurrence of the disease or pest.

Integrated disease management

Choosing which disease management method to employ will depend on the crop and disease situation as well as the availability of resources.

Cultural control methods aim to help plants avoid contact with a pathogen and to eradicate or reduce the amount of pathogen in a field or area. Examples of cultural control methods include crop rotation, sanitation and creating unfavourable conditions for the pathogen.

Biological control methods aim to improve the resistance of the host or favour micro-organisms antagonistic to the pathogen. Examples include suppressive soils and trap plants.The full article is for subscribed members only. To view the full article please subscribe. It’s FREE!Log In Register

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  • Marketing and Communications Manager – CropLife SA

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