Biopesticides contain active ingredients of natural or biological origin that include plant extracts, microorganisms, microbial metabolites, organic molecules, minerals, or other such natural materials that have pesticidal properties. Pests such as herbivorous arthropods, pathogens, parasitic nematodes, mollusks, rodents, and weeds cause significant crop damage when they are not managed. Pest suppression is a critical part of crop production to maintain plant health, prevent yield losses, and optimize returns. As agriculture advanced from subsistence farming to a global enterprise, crop protection also evolved over millennia. When farming was less organized, nature maintained a balance and provided solutions initially. Then natural solutions were actively implemented until industrialization led to the use of synthetic inputs in the 20th century. While synthetic fertilizers and pesticides contributed to a tremendous improvement in the yield potential, the indiscriminate use of some of them and the resulting damage to the environment and human health steered food production in the recent past towards organic farming with the use of nature-based solutions.
Although biopesticides have been around for a few decades, the growth of organic farming gave an impetus to the biopesticide industry during the past few years resulting in the development of new active ingredients and improved formulations. Now, biopesticides are considered an important part of integrated pest management (IPM) strategies in both organic and conventional systems. With a considerable industry investment in research and development, the quality and efficacy of biopesticides have also significantly improved. This has also contributed to optimizing the cost of some formulations. However, there is still a need to fill the knowledge gaps in biopesticides and their use. Depending on the active ingredient, the mode of action for biopesticides, their target pests, their storage and handling, and the use strategies are quite diverse, and a thorough understanding of these aspects is critical for their successful use. As emphasized in the new IPM model (Dara, 2019), while biopesticide use is an integral part of crop protection, understanding the pest biology, using biopesticides appropriate for the target life stage of the pest, applying them at the right time and rate using the right technology, avoiding incompatibility issues, building and sharing effective use strategies, and continuously investing in research and outreach are essential elements of biopesticide use. Biopesticides also play an important role in insecticide resistance management (IRM) to address resistance issues associated with synthetic pesticides. This article provides an overview of various biopesticide categories and general strategies for their successful use for IPM and IRM.
Biopesticides can be used for managing arthropod pests, bacterial or fungal pathogens, plant-parasitic nematodes, weeds, and snails and slugs. Some formulations or active ingredients have multiple roles and can be effective against more than one category of pests. While some active ingredients are very specific to a particular pest or related species, others have a broad-spectrum activity. Based on the source, biopesticides can be placed in four broad categories: i) botanicals, ii) microbials, iii) toxins, and iv) minerals and other natural materials.
Botanical extracts: Plants are a rich source of numerous phytochemicals or secondary metabolites that have a wide range of properties including pesticidal activity. Acids, alkaloids, flavonoids, glycosides, saponins, and terpenoids in plant extracts or oils obtained from seeds and other plant parts are some of the compounds present in various biopesticides (Pino et al., 2013). Azadirachtin, BLAD (polypeptide from sweet lupine seeds), citric acid, essential oils, pyrethrins, soybean oil, and extract of the giant knotweed are used for their acaricidal, insecticidal, fungicidal, nematicidal, or herbicidal properties.
Microbials: Some of the microbial pesticides have live microorganisms (such as entomopathogens, Bacillus spp., Streptomyces spp., and Trichoderma spp.) while others (such as Burkholderia rinojensis and Chromobacterium subtsugae)have heat-killed microorganisms and fermentation solids as the active ingredients. Entomopathogenic microorganisms [Bacillus thuringiensis (bacterium), Beauveria bassiana and Cordyceps fumosorosea (fungi), Heterorhabditis spp. and Steinernema spp. (nematodes), and granuloviruses and nucleopolyhedroviruses] primarily kill their hosts through infection; microbe-based fungicides antagonize plant pathogens through competitive displacement and production of toxic metabolites; nematophagous fungi parasitize plant-parasitic nematodes; and plant pathogenic bacteria, fungi, and viruses infect and suppress weeds. Bacteriophages, which are viruses that parasitize bacteria, are used against the plant pathogenic species of Clavibacter, Erwinia, Pseudomonas, Xanthomonas, Xylella, and other genera.
Toxins and other organic molecules: There are multiple examples of toxic organic molecules derived from various organisms. Avermectins from the bacterium Streptomyces avermitilis and spinosad from the bacterium Saccharopolyspora spinosa, strobilurin from the mushroom Strobuluris tenacellus, and cerevisane from the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisae are some of the microbial toxins that are effective against insects, plant-parasitic nematodes, or snails and slugs. A venom peptide from the Blue Mountains funnel-web spider, Hadronyche versuta, from Australia is a recently developed insecticide active ingredient with its unique mode of action class. Chitosan, a polysaccharide from the exoskeleton of shellfish, is a fungicide.
Minerals and other natural materials: Diatomaceous earth, mineral oil, and minerals such as sulfur are used for controlling multiple categories of pests. Potassium salts of fatty acids of plant or animal origin, known as insecticidal soap, have insecticidal and fungicidal properties. Organic acids such as acetic acid and citric acid are derived from plants and have fungicidal and herbicidal properties. Since these are different from other botanical extracts, they are placed in this category.
Except for the microbial pesticides that have live microorganisms, most biopesticides have chemical molecules of microbial, fungal, botanical, or mineral origin and work through various modes of action similar to synthetic pesticides. Several synthetic pesticides are developed from natural molecules. Abamectin, pyrethroids, neonicotinoids, spinetoram, and storbulurins are synthetic analogs based on avermectins, pyrethrins, nicotine, spinosad, and strobulurin, respectively, and were developed for improved stability, safety, or ease of commercial-scale production.
Integrated pest management and resistance management: Biopesticides are very diverse in their origin and mode of action and have been successfully used in several cropping systems for managing a variety of pests. They have complex interactions with plants, soil microbiota, pests, and environmental conditions. It is critical to have a good understanding of the source of biopesticides and how they act on their target pests. Certain biopesticides may have special storage and handling requirements or tank-mixing restrictions. It is essential to refer to the manufacturer's guidelines or label instructions to avoid incompatible tank-mix combinations, understand proper application sequences, and to store, transport, and apply under unfavorable conditions. While it is very important to use biopesticides as a part of the IPM program and tools for IRM, caution is warranted to avoid repeated use of the same or a similar type of biopesticide. Pests can develop resistance to biopesticides just as they do to synthetic pesticides (Dara, 2020).
Strategies for using biopesticides: From the seed or transplant treatment to soil or foliar application, biopesticides can be used throughout crop production. Certain combinations can have an additive or a synergistic effect on pest suppression. At the same time, certain inputs or practices can negatively impact biopesticide efficacy. For example, alkaline tank-mix components breakdown the protein coat of entomopathogenic viruses and Bacillus thuringiensis. Botanical oils can be incompatible with cold water. Some fungicides such as captan and thiram are incompatible with entomopathogenic fungi like Beauveria bassiana while several others are compatible (Dara et al., 2014).
Investing in biopesticides: Environmental safety and resistance development are two major concerns for excessive use of synthetic pesticides and incorporating biopesticides into IPM will help address both issues. Substituting biopesticides for synthetic pesticides will reduce the total amount of the latter during a production season and their potential negative impact on the environment and human health. Several biopesticides are not harmful to pollinators and in some production systems, pollinators are used to deliver biopesticides to the crops they pollinate. Adding biopesticides to the standard crop protection program will also increase pest control efficacy. Additionally, by not continuously using synthetic pesticides, the risk of resistance will be reduced and thus their efficacy will continue to be maintained. Although some biopesticides can be more expensive than synthetic pesticides, investing in them will be a good strategy for both the short-term benefit of effective pest suppression and the long-term benefit of a healthy and resilient ecosystem. Since pests do not have boundaries, area-wide implementation of good agricultural practices with a balanced use of synthetic and natural inputs is necessary for maintaining the productivity of the cropping systems.
Productive collaborations among the pesticide industry, researchers, extension educators, and the grower community are critical for successfully using biopesticides for sustainable food production. While research helps to develop effective formulations and their use strategies, outreach helps with the implementation of those strategies.
Dara, S.S.R., S. S. Dara, A. Sahoo, H. Bellam, and S. K. Dara. 2014. Can entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana be used for pest management when fungicides are used for disease management? UCANR eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals. https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=15671
Dara, S. K. 2019. The new integrated pest management paradigm for the modern age. J. Integr. Pest Manag. 10 (1): 12. https://doi.org/10.1093/jipm/pmz010
Dara, S. K. 2020. Arthropod resistance to biopesticides. Organic Farmer 3 (4): 16-19. https://organicfarmermag.com/2020/08/arthropod-resistance-to-biopesticides/
Pino, O. Y. Sánchez, and M. M. Rojas. 2013. Plant secondary metabolites as an alternative in pest management. I: Background, research approaches and trends. Rev. ProtecciónVeg. 28 (2): 81-94.
The traditional Integrated Pest Management (IPM) model is focused on maintaining ecological balance in the cropping system with some attention to the economics of pest management related to the yield losses. The new model, recently published in the Journal of Integrated Pest Management, is more comprehensive covering the management, business, and sustainability aspects of pest management and discusses various components within (Dara, 2019). IPM, according to the new model, can be defined as an approach to managing pests in an economically viable, socially acceptable, and environmentally safe manner.
New IPM model from Dara, 2019
Based on the information generated by several studies in California and other reports, here is how the new IPM model can be adapted for producing strawberries sustainably.
1. MANAGEMENT ASPECT
A. Pest Management: The term “pest” includes arthropod pests, diseases, and weeds and the management includes the various practices used to suppress them.
- Select varieties that produce good yields while resisting biotic and abiotic stresses.
- Choosing the right mulch and good irrigation and nutrient management contribute to good plant growth and health. Micro-sprinklers save water and hold pest management benefits.
- Explore the potential of beneficial microbes and biostimulants to improve nutrient and water absorption and to maintain crop health. Inoculate the transplants with biostimulants to induce systemic resistance and periodically apply, especially after fumigation, to improve the beneficial microbial activity in the soil.
- Healthy plants resist pest problems and reduce the need for control options. Plant health can be maintained through good cultural practices (biostimulants, nutrients, irrigation, soil conditioning, etc.).
- Predatory mites effectively control twospotted and Lewis mites, but natural enemy populations may not be sufficient to control the western tarnished plant bug.
- Light traps can be useful for managing lepidopteran pests.
- Tractor-mounted vacuums can be a part of the IPM program for managing the western tarnished plant bug, but their pest control efficiency is not necessarily superior to other strategies and are not without some associated risks. For example, operation of vacuums requires fossil fuels and they are used at a much higher frequency than pesticide applications.
- Use botanical, microbial, and chemical pesticides in combination. Combinations can improve pest control efficacy and rotations reduce the risk of resistance development.
- Rotating strawberries with crops such as broccoli can reduce the severity of certain soilborne diseases.
B. Knowledge and Resources:
- Understand pest biology, vulnerable stages of the pest, and appropriate strategies for each pest, different life stages, season, and budget. For example, relying on natural enemies for the western tarnished plant bug control is not effective and can lead to higher pest damage.
- Accurately identify the issue through visual observation or laboratory diagnosis for proper corrective action.
- Try to explore modern technology to monitor crop health.
C. Planning and Organization:
- Regularly monitor crop health for early detection and prevention of potential pest problems. For example, thorough scouting to determine the level of western tarnished plant bug infestation is very important for making the treatment decision. Deformed fruit is not always an indicator for the treatment threshold as nearly 1/3 of the fruit deformity occurs from environmental and other causes not related to the western tarnished plant bug.
- Look for signs of pesticide resistance and use appropriate strategies to reduce the risk.
- Maintain records of pest occurrence, seasonal trends, strategies that worked, and all relevant information, to build institutional knowledge for future use.
- Take the right action at the right time.
- Regularly attend extension events and read research updates. Choose or design practices that are ideal for your farm based on the research updates.
- Periodically provide training to all individuals on the farm who directly or indirectly contribute to good agriculture practices.
- Share good management practices with each other for area-wide improvement of crop production and pest management.
- Try to educate the public so that they make better choices when purchasing produce. For example, good IPM practices can be more sustainable than organically approved practices and well-informed consumers can make a choice among conventional, organic, or sustainably produced grains, fruits, and vegetables. Public education can also help to eliminate otherwise good produce that is discarded because of minor imperfections. In strawberry, fruit deformity is caused due to the feeding of the western tarnished plant bug, genetic factors, poor pollination, or very low temperatures. Although most of the deformed strawberries, especially those from insect damage, have equal quality as marketable strawberries, they are discarded because of their shape. If the consumer market can accept deformed strawberries that still have good taste and nutritional quality, it can significantly reduce the wastage and the amount of pesticides sprayed to control the western tarnished plant bug.
2. BUSINESS ASPECT
- A strong IPM program can help growers produce sustainably while ensuring profitability.
- Consumer choices depend on their knowledge of sustainable agriculture. When they understand that produce with an IPM or Sustainably Produced label is safe for human and environmental health, it will have a major impact on food production systems.
3. SUSTAINABILITY ASPECT
- The current interpretation or perception of sustainability does not reflect true sustainability in terms of environmental health, profitability, food security, social equality, and other elements. A good IPM model can address all these issues to ensure farm productivity, food affordability, and environmental safety.
RESEARCH and OUTREACH
- Research and outreach component is the foundation of IPM to identify pest issues, develop appropriate knowledge for their management, and effectively disseminate the related information. Supporting research and outreach efforts of universities and other entities is essential for continuing IPM.
In addition to the below references, there are several articles in this eJournal on crop production and protection topics related to strawberry.
- Download “Biology and management of spider mites in strawberry” in English and Spanish at http://ucanr.edu/spidermiteguide or scan the QR code. Information about different species of spider mites and predatory mites is available in this guide.
- Efficacy of botanical, chemical, and microbial pesticides on twospotted spider mite and their impact on predatory mites http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=18553
- Entomopathogenic fungi can endophytically colonize strawberry plants when applied to the soil and negatively impact twospotted spider mite infestations http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=16821
- How to detect resistance to miticides in twospotted spider mite populations and strategies to reduce the resistance development http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=22097
- Comparison between the twospotted spider mite and the Lewis mite http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=5771
- An overview of lygus bug biology, damage, and management in strawberries http://cesantabarbara.ucanr.edu/files/75473.pdf
- Lygus biology, monitoring, and management videos http://ucanr.edu/SDYouTube
- Fruit deformity in strawberry from lygus bug and other factors http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=19630
- Potential of a solar-powered UV light trap as a pest management option in strawberry http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=25307
- IPM tools for controlling western tarnished plant bug in strawberry https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=19641
- Entomopathogens (pathogens of insects, mites, and ticks), their modes of infection, and how they can be used as a powerful tool in IPM http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=24119
- Biopesticides and IPM https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=25912
- Lygus bug and natural enemy populations in organic and conventional strawberries https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=14030
- Microbial and bioactive soil amendments for improving strawberry health and yields (2017-2018 study) https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=27891
- Beneficial microbe-based products for strawberry health and yield (2016-2017 study)
- Beneficial microbes and entomopathogenic fungi for strawberry health and yield (2015-2016 study) https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=22709
- Entomopathogenic fungi antagonizing Macrophomina phaseolina https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=28274
- Entomopathogenic fungi and other biologicals against Fusarium oxysporum
- Micro-sprinklers in strawberry https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=19699
There has been a growing interest in the recent years in exploring the potential of biostimulants in crop production. Biostimulants are mineral, botanical, or microbial materials that stimulate natural processes in plants, help them tolerate biotic and abiotic stressors, and improve crop growth and health. Several recent studies demonstrated the potential of the biostimulant or soil amendments in improving crop yields and health. For example, in a 2017 field study, silicon, microbial, botanical and nutrient materials improved processing tomato yields by 27 to 32% compared to the standard fertility program (Dara and Lewis, 2018). In a 2017-2018 strawberry field study, some biostimulant and soil amendment products resulted in a 13-16% increase in marketable fruit yield compared to the grower standard (Dara and Peck, 2018). He et al. (2019) evaluated three species of Bacillus and Pseudomonas putida alone and in different combinations in tomatoes grown in laboratory and greenhouse. The combination of Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, B. pumilus, and P. putida increased the plant biomass and the root/shoot ratio. Significant increase in fruit yield, between 18 and 39%, was also achieved from individual or co-inoculations of these bacteria. A field study was conducted in processing tomato to evaluate the impact of nutrient products containing beneficial microbes and botanical extracts on tomato yields and fruit quality.
The study was conducted from late spring to fall of 2018 to evaluate three treatment programs compared to the grower standard. Tomato cultivar Quali T27 was seeded on 25 April and transplanted on 19 June using a mechanical transplanter. Due to high temperatures at the time of planting, some transplants died and they were re-planted on 28 June. Herbicide Matrix was applied on 5 July and Poast was applied on 13 July followed by hand weeding on 27 July. Crop was irrigated, fertigated, and treatements were applied through a drip system. Overhead sprinkler irrigation was additionally used immediately after transplanting. The following treatments were included in the study:
1. Grower standard: 10-34-0 Ammonium Polyphosphate Solution was applied at 10 gal/ac at the time of transplanting followed by the application of UAN-32 Urea Ammonium Nitrate Solution 32-0-0 at the rate of 15 units of N at 3, 6, and 13 weeks after planting and 25 units of N at 7 weeks after planting.
2. Grower standard + BiOWiSH Crop 16-40-0: BiOWiSH Crop 16-40-0 contains 16% nitrogen and 40% phosphate along with B. amyloliquefaciens, B. licheniformis, B. pumilus, and B. subtilis at 1X108 cfu/gram. Crop 16-40-0 was applied at 1 lb/ac at the time of planting followed by the application 0.5 lb/ac at 3, 6, and 9 weeks after planting.
3. Grower standard 85% + BiOWiSH Crop 16-40-0: Crop 16-40-0 was applied at the same rate and frequency as in treatment 2, but the grower standard was reduced to 85%.
4. RootRx: RootRx contains 5% soluble potash and proprietary botanical extracts and is supposed to stimulate a broad range of antioxidant compounds in the plant. It was applied at 0.25 gal/ac at the time of planting followed by the application of 0.5 gal/ac at 3, about 7, and 13 weeks after planting.
Each treatment contained 30' long bed with a single row of tomato plants and replicated five times in a randomized complete block design. Along with the fruit yield, the sugar content of the fruit and leaves [using a refractometer from three fruits (two measurements from each) and four leaves per plot], chlorophyll content (using a digital chlorophyll meter from four leaves per plot), and frost damage levels (using a visual rating on a 0 to 5 scale where 0 = no frost damage and 5 = extreme frost damage with a complete plant death) were also monitored. Due to an unknown reason, some plants in the fifth replication were stunted halfway through the study. Data from the fifth replication were excluded from the analysis. Data were subjected to the analysis of variance using Statistix software and significant means were separated using the Tukey's HSD test.
Fruit yield: Marketable and unmarketable fruit yield was monitored from 27 August to 13 November. Seasonal total for marketable fruit was significantly (P = 0.04) different among the treatments where RootRx resulted in a 26.5% increase over the grower standard while Crop 16-4-0 with the full rate of the grower standard had an 8%, and with 85% of the grower standard had a 13.2% increase. It appeared that a similar improved yield response was also seen when Crop 16-40-0 was used at a reduced rate of the grower standard in other studies conducted by the manufacturer.
Sugar content: Sugar content of the fruit and leaves was measured once after the last harvest and there were no significant (P > 0.05) difference among the treatments.
Chlorophyll content: Chlorophyll content was measured once after the last harvest and there was no significant (P > 0.05) difference among the treatments.
Frost damage: Study was concluded after frosty conditions in November 2018 damaged the crop. Although there were no statistically significant (P > 0.05) differences, plants treated with RootRx had the lowest rating of 2.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Jenita Thinakaran and the field staff at the Shafter Research Station for their technical assistance, Plantel Nurseries for providing transplants, and BiOWiSH Technologies and Redox Chemicals for their financial support.
Dara, S. K. and D. Peck. 2018. Microbial and bioactive soil amendments for improving strawberry crop growth, health, and fruit yields: a 2017-2018 study. UCANR eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals (https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=27891)
Dara, S. K. and E. Lewis. 2018. Impact of nutrient and biostimulant materials on tomato crop health and yield. UCANR eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals (https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=26054)
He. Y., H. A. Pantigoso, Z. Wu, and J. M. Vivanco. 2019. Co-inoculation of Bacillus sp. and Pseudomonas putida at different development stages acts as a biostimulant to promote growth, yield and nutrient uptake of tomato. J. Appl. Microbiol. https://doi.org/10.1111/jam.14273
Integrated pest management, commonly referred to as IPM, is a concept of managing pests that has been in use for several decades. The definition and interpretation of IPM vary depending on the source, such as a university, institute, or a researcher, and its application varies even more widely depending on the practitioner. Here are a few examples of its definitions and interpretations:
“IPM is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties. Pesticides are used only after monitoring indicates they are needed according to established guidelines, and treatments are made with the goal of removing only the target organism. Pest control materials are selected and applied in a manner that minimizes risks to human health, beneficial and nontarget organisms, and the environment.” UC IPM
“Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is an approach to solving pest problems by applying our knowledge about pests to prevent them from damaging crops, harming animals, infesting buildings or otherwise interfering with our livelihood or enjoyment of life. IPM means responding to pest problems with the most effective, least-risk option.” IPM Institute of North America
“A well-defined Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a program that should be based on prevention, monitoring, and control which offers the opportunity to eliminate or drastically reduce the use of pesticides, and to minimize the toxicity of and exposure to any products which are used. IPM does this by utilizing a variety of methods and techniques, including cultural, biological and structural strategies to control a multitude of pest problems.” Beyond Pesticides
“IPM is rotating chemicals from different mode of action groups.” A grower
These definitions and interpretations represent a variety of objectives and strategies for managing pests. IPM is not a principle that can/should be strictly and equally applied to every situation, but a philosophy that can guide the practitioner to use it as appropriate for the situation. For example, varieties that are resistant to arthropod pests and diseases are available for some crops, but not for others. Mating disruption with pheromones is widely practiced for certain lepidopteran and coleopteran pests, but not for several hemipteran pests. Biological control is more readily employed for greenhouse pests, but not to the same extent under field conditions. While chemical pesticides should be used as the last resort, in principle, sometimes they are the first line of defense to prevent damage to the transplants by certain pests or area-wide spread of certain endemic or invasive pests and diseases.
Crop production is an art, science, and business, and by adding environmental and social factors, IPM – an approach used in agriculture – can also be influenced by a number of factors. Each grower has their own strategy for producing crops, minimizing losses, and making a profit in a manner that is acceptable to the society, safe for the consumers, and less disruptive to the environment. In other words, “IPM is an approach to manage pests in an economically viable, socially acceptable, and environmentally safe manner”. Keeping this simple, but loaded, definition in mind and considering recent advances in crop production and protection, communication technology, and globalization of agriculture and commerce, here is the new paradigm of IPM with its management, business, and sustainability aspects.
I. Management Aspect
There are four major components in the IPM model that address the various pest management options, the knowledge and resources the grower has in order to address the pest issue, planning and organization of information to take appropriate actions, and maintaining good communication to acquire and disseminate knowledge about pests and their management.
1. Pest Management:
The concept of pest control has changed to pest management over the years knowing that a balanced approach to managing pest populations to levels that do not cause economic losses is better than eliminating for environmental and economic reasons. Although the term control is frequently used in literature and conversations, it generally refers to management. A thorough knowledge of general IPM principles and various management options for all possible pest problems is important as some are preventive and others are curative. It is also essential to understand inherent and potential interactions among these management options to achieve maximum control. The following are common control options that can be employed at different stages of crop production to prevent, reduce, or treat pest infestations. Each of them may provide only a certain level of control, but their additive effect can be significant in preventing yield losses.
a. Host plant resistance: It involves the use of pest resistant and tolerant cultivars developed through traditional breeding or genetic engineering. These cultivars possess physical, morphological, or biochemical characters that reduce the plant's attractiveness or suitability for the pest to feed, develop, or reproduce successfully. These cultivars resist or tolerate pest damage and thus reduce the yield losses.
b. Cultural control: Changing agronomic practices to avoid or reduce pest infestations and damage refers to cultural control. Adjusting planting dates can help escape pest occurrence or avoid most vulnerable stages. Modifying irrigation practices, fertilizer program, plant or row spacing, and other agronomic practices can create conditions that are less suitable for the pest. Destroying crop residue and thorough cultivation will eliminate breeding sites and control soil-inhabiting stages of the pest. Crop rotation with non-host or tolerant crops will break the pest cycles and reduce their buildup year after year. Choosing clean seed and plant material will avoid the chances of introducing pests right from the beginning of the crop production. Sanitation practices to remove infected/infested plant material, regular cleaning field equipment, avoiding accidental contamination of healthy fields through human activity are also important to prevent the pest spread. Intercropping of non-host plants or those that deter pests or using trap crops to divert pests away from the main crop are some of the other cultural control strategies.
c. Biological control: Natural enemies such as spiders, predators, and parasitic wasps can be very effective in causing significant reductions in pest populations in certain circumstances. Periodical releases of commercially available natural enemies or conserving natural enemy populations by providing refuges or avoiding practices that harm them are some of the common practices to control endemic pests. To address invasive pest issues, classical biological control approach is typically employed where natural enemies from the native region of the invasive pest are imported, multiplied, and released in the new habitat of the pest. The release of irradiated, sterile insects is another biological control technique that is successfully used against a number of pests.
d. Behavioral control: Behavior of the pest can be exploited for its control through baits, traps, and mating disruption techniques. Baits containing poisonous material will attract and kill the pests when distributed in the field or placed in traps. Pests are attracted to certain colors, lights, odors of attractants or pheromones. Devices that use one or more of these can be used to attract, trap or kill pests. Pheromone lures confuse adult insects and disrupt their mating potential, and thus reduce their offspring.
e. Physical or mechanical control: This approach refers to the use of a variety of physical or mechanical techniques for pest exclusion, trapping (in some cases similar to the behavioral control), removal, or destruction. Pest exclusion with netting, handpicking or vacuuming to remove pests, mechanical tools for weed control, traps for rodent pests, modifying environmental conditions such as heat or humidity in greenhouses, steam sterilization or solarization, visual or physical bird deterrents such as reflective material or sonic devices are some examples for physical or mechanical control.
f. Microbial control: Using entomopathogenic bacteria, fungi, microsporidia, nematodes, and viruses, and fermentation byproducts of microbes against arthropod pests, fungi against plant parasitic nematodes, and bacterial and fungal antagonizers of plant pathogens generally come under microbial control.
g. Chemical control: Chemical control typically refers to the use of synthetic chemical pesticides, but to be technically accurate, it should include synthetic chemicals as well as chemicals of microbial or botanical origin. Although botanical extracts such as azadirachtin and pyrethrins, and microbe-derived toxic metabolites such as avermectin and spinosad are regarded as biologicals, they are still chemical molecules, similar to synthetic chemicals, and possess many of the human and environmental safety risks as chemical pesticides. Chemical pesticides are categorized into different groups based on their mode of action and rotating chemicals from different groups is recommended to reduce the risk of resistance development. Government regulations restrict the time and amount of certain chemical pesticides and help mitigate the associated risks.
The new RNAi (ribonucleic acid interference) technology where double-stranded RNA is applied to silence specific genes in the target insect is considered as a biopesticide application. Certain biostimulants based on minerals, microbes, plant extracts, seaweed or algae impart induced systemic resistance to pests and diseases, but are applied as amendments without any claims for pest or disease control. These new products or technologies can fall into one or more abovementioned categories.
As required by the crop and pest situation, one or more of these control options can be used throughout the production period for effective pest management. When used effectively, non-chemical control options delay, reduce, or eliminate the use of chemical pesticides.
2. Knowledge and Resources:
The knowledge of various control options, pest biology and damage potential, and suitability of available resources enables the grower to make a decision appropriate for their situation.
a. Pest: Identification of the pest, understanding its biology and seasonal population trends, damaging life stages and their habitats, nature of damage and its economic significance, vulnerability of each life for one or more control options, host preference and alternate hosts, and all the related information is critical for identifying an effective control strategy.
b. Available control options: Since not all control options can be used against every pest, the grower has to choose the ones that are ideal for the situation. For example, systemic insecticides are more effective against pests that mine or bore into the plant tissue. Pests that follow a particular seasonal pattern can be controlled by adjusting planting dates. Commercially available natural enemies can be released against some, while mating disruption works well against others. Entomopathogenic nematodes can be used against certain soil pests, bacteria and viruses against pests with chewing mouthparts such as lepidoptera and coleopteran, and fungi against sucking pests.
c. Tools and technology: A particular pest can be controlled by certain options, but they may not all be available in a particular place, for a particular crop, or within the available financial means. For example, the release of natural enemies may be possible in high-value speciality crops, but not in large acreage field crops. A particular pesticide might be registered against a pest on some crops, but not on all. Use of netting or tractor-mounted vacuums can be effective, but very expensive limiting their availability to those who can afford.
This is a critical component where diagnostic and preventive or curative decisions are made based on available and affordable control options.
3. Planning and Organization:
This component deals with the management aspect of the of the new IPM model for data collection, organization, and actual actions against pest infestations.
a. Pest monitoring: Regularly monitoring the fields for pest infestation and spread is a basic step in crop protection. Early detection in many cases can help address the pest situation by low-cost spot treatment or removal of pests or infected/infested plant material. When pest infestations continue to grow, regular monitoring is necessary to assess the damage and determine the time to initiate farm-wide control. Monitoring is also important to avoid calendar-based pesticide applications especially at lower pest populations that do not warrant treatments.
b. Managing information: A good recordkeeping about pests, their damage, effective treatments, seasonal fluctuations, interactions with environmental factors, irrigation practices, plant nutrition, and all related information from year to year will build the institutional knowledge and prepares the grower to take preventive or curative actions.
c. Corrective actions: Taking timely action is probably the most important aspect of IPM. Even with all the knowledge about the pest and availability of resources for its effective management, losses can be prevented only when corrective actions are taken at the right time. Good farm management will allow the grower to take timely actions. These actions are not only necessary to prevent damage on a particular farm, but also to prevent the spread to neighboring farms. When pest management is neglected, it leads to area-wide problems with larger regulatory, social, and economic implications.
Good communication to transfer the individual or collective knowledge for the benefit of everyone is the last component of the new IPM model. Modern and traditional communication tools can be used for outreach as university and private researchers develop information about endemic and invasive pests, emerging threats, and new control strategies.
a. Staying informed: Growers and pest control professionals should stay informed about existing and emerging pests and their management options. Science-based information can be obtained by attending extension meetings, webinars, or workshops, reading newsletter, trade, extension, or scientific journal articles, and keeping in touch with researchers and other professionals through various communication channels. Well-informed growers can be well prepared to address pest issues.
b. Communication within the group: Educating farm crew through periodical training or communication will help with all aspects of pest management, proper pesticide handling, ensuring worker safety, and preventing environmental contamination. Knowledgeable field crew will be beneficial for effective implementation of pest management strategies.
c. Communication among growers: Although certain crop production and protection strategies are considered proprietary information, pests do not have boundaries and can spread to multiple fields when they are not effectively managed throughout the region. Sharing knowledge and resources with each other will improve pest control efficacy and benefit the entire grower community.
In addition to these four components with an IPM model, factors that influence profitable, safe, and affordable food production at a larger scale and their implications for global food security should also be included. There are two layers surrounding these four components addressing the business and sustainable aspects of food production.
II. Business Aspect:
Consumers want nutritious, healthy, and tasty produce that is free of pest damage at affordable prices. Growers try to meet this demand by producing food that meets all the consumer needs, while maintaining environmental and human safety and still being able to make a profit. Sellers evaluate the market demand and strategize their sales to satisfy consumers while making their own profit to stay in the business. In an ideal system, consumer, producer, and seller would maintain a harmonious balance of food production and sale. In such a system, food is safe and affordable to everyone, there will be food security all over the world, and both growers and sellers make a good profit with no or minimal risk to the environment in the process of food production. However, this balance is frequently disrupted due to i) consumers' misunderstanding of various food production systems, their demand for perfectly shaped fruits and vegetables at affordable prices or their willingness to pay a premium price for food items that are perceived to be safe, ii) growers trying to find economical ways of producing high quality food while facing with continuous pest problems and other challenges, and iii) sellers trying to market organic food at a higher price as a safer alternative to conventionally produced food. If growers implement good IPM strategies to produce safe food and consumers are aware of this practice and gain confidence in food produced in an IPM system, then sellers would be able to market what informed-consumers demand.
III. Sustainability Aspect:
As mentioned earlier, IPM is an approach to ensure economic viability at both consumer and producer level (seller is always expected to make a profit), environmental safety through a balanced use of all available pest control options, and social acceptability as food is safe and affordable.
While organic food production is generally perceived as safe and sustainable, the following examples can explain why it is not necessarily true. Organic food production is not pesticide-free and some of the pesticides used in an organic system are as harmful to humans and non-target organisms as some chemical pesticides. Certain organically accepted pesticides have toxins or natural chemical molecules that are very similar to those in synthetic pesticides. In fact, some synthetic pesticides are manufactured imitating the pesticidal molecules of natural origin. Mechanical pest control practices such as vacuuming or tilling utilize fossil fuels and indirectly have a negative impact on the environment. For example, diesel-powered tractors are operated for vacuuming western tarnished bug in strawberry 2-3 times or more each week while a pesticide application typically requires the use of tractor once every 7-14 days. To control certain pests, multiple applications of organic pesticides might be necessary with associated costs and risks, while similar pest populations could be controlled by fewer chemical pesticide applications. It is very difficult to manage certain plant diseases and arthropod pests through non-chemical means and inadequate control not only leads to crop losses, but can result in their spread to larger areas making their control even more difficult. Many growers prefer a good IPM-based production to an organic production for the ease of operation and profitability. However, they continue to produce organic food to stay in business.
While middle and upper-class consumers may be willing to pay higher prices for organically produced food, many of the low-income groups in developed and underdeveloped countries cannot afford such food. Organic food production can lead to social inequality and a false sense of wellbeing for those can afford. Food security for the growing world population is necessary through optimizing input costs, minimizing wastage, grower adoption of safe and sustainable practices, and consumer confidence in food produced through such practices. IPM addresses all the economic, environmental, and social aspects and provides safe and affordable food to the consumers and profits to producers and sellers, while maintaining environmental health.