Potential effects of climate change of insect pest dynamics
Futurcrop - 12-07-2019
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON INSECT PEST DYNAMICS
Sikha Deka1*, Sharmistha Barthakur1 and Renu Pandey2
1National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, Pusa Campus, New Delhi 110012
2Division of Plant Physiology,
Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi 110012
Climate change is the most important, and the most complex, global environmental issue to-date. Effects of green house gases and climatic changes are already evident from the rising climatic temperature, recurrent droughts, erratic rains, flooding and submergence etc. Global climate is expected to warm 1.4 to 5.8oC over the century with the maximum increase at Northern Latitude (Meehl, 2007). Such changes may have serious impacts on global crop productivity and agricultural production leading to famine and starvation. A recent study predicts that crop harvest will decline by more than 30% in Indian subcontinent by 2050 (Rao, 1999).
Climatic factors like temperature and precipitation in particular, have a very strong influence on the development, reproduction and survival of insect pests and pathogens. Researchers found that the numbers of leaf eating insects are likely to surge as a result of rising levels of CO2, at a time when crop production will have to be boosted to feed an extra three billion people living at the end of 21st century (Connor, 2008). It is predicted that some extreme events will increase in frequency as a result of a change in natural climate variability (McCarthy et al., 2001). Such changes in climatic conditions could profoundly affect the population dynamics and the status of insect pests of the crops (Woiwod, 1997).
These effects could either be direct, through the influence of weather on the insects’ physiology and behaviour (Samways, 2005, Parmesan, 2007 and Merrill et al., 2008), or may be mediated by host plants, competitors or natural enemies (Harrington et al., 2001 and Bale et al., 2002). Climate change related factors like rise in temperature, changes in precipitation patterns, milder and shorter winters, rise of sea levels and increased incidence of extreme weather events can directly influence insects by affecting their rate of development, reproduction, distribution, migration and adaptation. In addition, indirect effects can occur through the influence of climate on the insect’s host plants, natural enemies and interspecific interactions with other insects. The impacts include changes in phenology, distribution and community composition of ecosystem that finally leads to extinction of species (Walther et al., 2002). As insects represent huge numbers of taxa and individuals, with their short generation times, high mobility and high reproductive rates, they will respond more quickly to climate changes than long- lived organisms, like higher plants and mammals (Menéndez, 2007). Infact, insects may be the first predictors of climate change. Milder and shorter winters will result in early start by the pest under warm weather condition breeding (Bale et al., 2002). Insects of medical importance, such as mosquitoes should have more impact of climate change (Hopp and Foley, 2001 and Epstein, 2001). Other changes include expanded pest ranges, disruption of synchrony between pests and natural enemies and increased frequency of pest outbreaks and upheavals (Parmesan, 2007 and Van Asch and Visser, 2007).
Some researchers have been scoring the fossil record of leaves that fell off trees about 55 millions years ago. At that time, the planet was undergoing a period of warming. It has been suggested that the 5oC rise in global temperatures caused by a tripling of CO2 levels during the palaeocene-eocene thermal maximum (PETM) period sent insect numbers soaring and left an indelible impression on the fossilized leaves preserved since that time. It was found that as the temperature rose, the leaves looked more nibbled (Hopkin, 2008). Detailed investigations were done by analyzing various studies carried out across the globe on impact of increasing atmospheric temperature and CO2 on crop pests population and crop- pest interaction.
RISING TEMPERATURE AND PEST POPULATION
A key factor regulating the life history pattern of insect pest is temperature. Because insects are poikilothermic (cold-blooded) organisms, the temperature of their bodies is approximately the same as that of the environment. Therefore, the developmental rates of their life stages are strongly dependent on temperature. Almost all the insects will be affected to some degrees by changes in temperature and there may be multiple effects upon insect life histories. Laboratory and modeling experiments support the notion that the biology of agricultural pests are likely to respond to increased temperatures (Fye and McAda, 1972, Cammell and Knight, 1991 and Fleming & Volney, 1995).
With every degree rise in global temperature, the life cycle of insect will be shorter. The quicker the life cycle, the higher will be the population of pests. In temperate regions, most insects have their growth period during the warmer part of the year because of which, species whose niche space is defined by climatic regime, will respond more predictably to climate change while those in which the niche is limited by other abiotic or biotic factors, will be less predictable (Bale et al., 2002). In the first case, the general prediction is that if global temperatures increase, the species will shift their geographical ranges closer to the poles or to higher elevations and increase their population size (Sutherst, 2000, Harrington et al., 2001, Bale et al., 2002 and Samways, 2005).
The increase in temperature associated with climatic change, would impact crop pest insect populations in several complex ways like (a) extension of geographical range (b) increased over-wintering (c) changes in population growth rate (d) increased number of generations (e) extension of development season (f) changes in crop pest synchrony (g) changes in interspecific interactions (h) increased risks of invasions by migrant pests and (i) introduction of alternative hosts and over-wintering hosts. But all these effects of temperature on insects largely overwhelm the effects of other environmental factors (Bale et al., 2002).
With the increase in mean temperature by ~0.6ºC over the past century and projected increases in the future (IPCC, 2001), climate change has been shown to have effects on ecosystems worldwide (Walther et al., 2002). Temperature increases already have caused changes in species diversity and distribution. It will alter the distribution of many species in different taxa (Hickling et al., 2005). It has been recognized that global warming affects the individual species and communities in the form of range shifts and extinctions (Walther et al., 2002, Root et al., 2003 and Battisti, 2004). Depending on the development strategy of an insect species, temperature can exert different effects (Bale et al., 2002). Temperature can impact insect physiology and development directly or indirectly through the physiology or existence of hosts. Some insects take several years to complete one life cycle. These insects (cicadas, arctic moths) will tend to moderate temperature variability over the course of their life history. Some crop pests are “stop and go” developers in relation to temperature, so they develop more rapidly during periods with suitable temperatures. It has been estimated that with a 2oC temperature increase, insects might experience one to five additional life cycles per season (Yamamura and Kiritani, 1998). Warming could decrease the occurrence of severe cold events, which could in turn expand the over-wintering area for insect pests (Patterson et al., 1999). In-season effects of warming include the potential for increased levels of feeding and growth, including the possibility of additional generations in a given year (Cannon, 1998).
Migratory insects may arrive earlier or the area in which they are able to over-winter may be expanded. Natural enemy and host insect populations may respond differently to changes in temperature. Parasitism could be reduced if host populations emerge and pass through vulnerable life stages before parasitoids emerge. Hosts may pass though vulnerable life stages more quickly at higher temperatures, reducing the window of opportunity for parasitism. Temperature may change gender ratios of some pest species such as thrips (Lewis, 1997) potentially affecting reproduction rates. However, insects that spend important parts of their life history in the soil may be more gradually affected by temperature changes than those that are above ground. This is because soil provides an insulating medium that will tend to buffer temperature changes more than the air (Bale et al., 2002). Lower winter mortality of insects due to warmer winter temperatures could be important in increasing insect populations (Harrington et al., 2001). At higher temperatures, aphids have been shown to be less responsive to the aphid alarm pheromone they release when under attack by insect predators and parasitoids, resulting in the potential for greater predation (Awmack et al., 1997). Increases in mean temperatures particularly, milder winters and longer summers, are highly favorable to increased aphid populations and are thought to have caused extensions to the geographical range of many insect pests, leading to increased range and severity of infestations. There is also the prospect of new pests, which may become much more important as a result of increased temperature due to global warming.
Environmental factors influenced by global climate change determine the distribution ranges of organisms. It plays a major role in defining the distribution limits of a species. It is predicted that the distribution of most insect species will shift towards the poles and to higher elevations with predicted temperature increase due to climate change and temperate regions will bear the main burden of these shifts. With changes in climate, these limits are shifting as species expand into higher latitudes and altitudes and disappear from areas that have become climatically unsuitable (Parmesan, 2006 and Menéndez, 2007). Climate change will alter the distribution of many species in different taxa (Hickling et al., 2005) especially, ectothermic animals are expected to shift their distribution ranges northwards in the next hundred years or so (Vanhanen et al., 2007). It has been recognized that global warming affects the individual species and communities in a form of range shifts and extinctions (Walther et al., 2002, Root et al., 2003, Battisti, 2004 and Battisti et al., 2005). The increasing winter temperatures have been proposed to be the key factor affecting range shifts in insects by reducing winter mortality (Battisti et al., 2005). As a result of temperature increase, the ranges of species could expand poleward and in the mountainous areas also, an upward elevation takes place because the number of insect species is inversely related to latitude and elevation from the sea level (Hickling et al., 2005). According to a study conducted on 1100 insect species, climate changes due to global warming may cause 15-37% of those species to extinct by 2050 (Thomas et al., 2004 and Hance et al., 2007).
It is now clear that poleward and upward shifts of species ranges have occurred across many taxonomic groups and in a large diversity of geographical locations during the 20th century. According to one survey of about 1600 species, about 940 of them showed the effects of climate change. For instance, in Europe, 35 species of butterflies have already shifted their ranges 35-240 km northward. In California, 70% of 23 butterfly species now start their first flight about 24 days earlier than they used to do 31 years ago (Parmesan and Yohe, 2003 and Parmesan, 2007). Parmesan and Yohe (2003) reported that more than 1700 Northern Hemisphere species have exhibited significant range shifts averaging 6.1 km per decade towards the poles (or 6.1 m per decade upward). At the same time effects of defoliators, wood borers and bark beetles could become more detrimental due to prolonged growing season leading to multivoltinism, absence of extreme temperatures in winter that diminish population levels and possible shifts to novel host plants (Battisti et al., 2006 and Stastny et al., 2006).
Climate change will alter the ranges and abundances of insects and therefore have profound impacts on agriculture by the movement of existing crop pests into new areas and potentially, by raising currently disregarded insect species to pest status. The range and abundance of insect changes under global warming would not necessarily be derived from the physiology of individual insect species. Species may increase in abundance at physiologically non-optimum temperatures raising the concern that rare species currently not regarded as pests may become economically important with global warming (Jenkinson et al., 1996).
Phenology is the timing of biological events such as seasonal activities of plants and animals like flowering or breeding. These events are dictated by photoperiod, temperature or other stimuli. Many insects which are in synchronization with such events are affected if global warming initiates changes in phenology. It is one of the easiest impacts of climate change to monitor and is by far the most documented in this regard for a wide range of organisms (Root et al., 2003). With increased temperatures, it is expected that insects will pass through their larval stages faster and become adults earlier. Therefore, expected responses in insects could include an advance in the timing of larval and adult emergence and an increase in the length of the flight period (Menéndez, 2007). Members of the order Lepidoptera are the best examples of such phenological changes. Changes in butterfly phenology have been reported in UK, where 26 of 35 species have advanced their first appearance (Roy and Sparks, 2000). First appearance for 17 species in Spain has advanced by 1-7 weeks in just 15 years (Stefanescu et al., 2003). Seventy percent of 23 butterfly species in California, USA have shown an advancement of first flight date of approximately eight days per decade (Forister and Shapiro, 2003). Early adult emergence and an early arrival of migratory species have also been reported for aphids in the UK (Harrington et al., 2007). Gordo and Sanz (2005) investigated climate impacts on four Mediterranean insect species viz. butterfly, bee, fly and beetle and indicated that all species exhibited changes in their first appearance date over the last 50 years, which was correlated with increases in spring temperature.
Parmesan and Yohe (2003) estimated that more than half (59%) of 1598 species investigated exhibited measurable changes in their phenologies and/or distributions over the past 20 to 140 years. They also estimated a mean advancement of spring events by 2.3 days/decade based on the quantitative analyses of phenological responses for these species. In a similar quantitative study, Root et al. (2003) estimated an advancement of 5.1 days per decade. Degree- day or phenology based models are often used to predict the emergence of insects like cabbage maggot, onion maggot, European corn borer, Colorado potato beetle etc. and their potential to damage crops. Increased temperatures will accelerate the development of these types of insects resulting in more generations and possibly more crop damage per year.
ELEVATED CO2 AND PEST POPULATION
One of the most studied aspects of climate change is the effect of increasing concentrations of CO2 on plants. Plants consist primarily of carbon and elevated CO2 levels allow them to grow more rapidly because they can assimilate carbon more quickly. Greenhouse growers have known this for decades and add CO2 to encourage plant growth. Similarly, because CO 2 increases the photosynthetic rates of most crop plants, scientists initially thought that increasing CO2 would be a solution for the world’s food supply (LaMarche et al., 1984). In addition to enhanced growth, many crop plants become more drought-tolerant due to CO2 enrichment. This is because the openings in the leaves (stomata) that let CO2 in also let water vapor out and if there is high CO2 concentration in the vicinity of leaf then the stomata need not open as much. It was suggested that under conditions of elevated CO2, plants will produce better yields even when conditions are harsh (LaMarche et al., 1984). Unfortunately, this optimistic predictions have not proven accurate. One reason for this is that insects also eat more when plants are grown under elevated levels of CO2 to compensate their low nutritional quality. A rise in CO2 generally increases the carbon to nitrogen ratio of plant tissues thereby reducing the nutritional quality for protein limited insects diluting the nitrogen content of the tissues (Coviella et al., 1999). The expected reactions from herbivores to the increase in carbon to nitrogen ratio are compensatory feeding, concentrations of defensive chemicals in plants and competition between pest species. Insects may accelerate their food intake to compensate for reduced leaf nitrogen content (Holton et al., 2003), although this is not always the case (Knepp et al., 2005). However, the response of plants to increased CO2 varies among species.
Increased carbon to nitrogen ratios in plant tissue may slow insect development and increase the length of life stages vulnerable to attack by parasitoids. Phytophagous insects may also develop adaptations to overcome higher carbon to nitrogen ratios, for example the pine sawfly Neodiprion lecontei, showed an increase in the efficiency of nitrogen utilization when reared on plants treated with high CO2 concentration (Williams et al., 1994). However, other insect species seem unable to compensate the lower nutritional quality of the plants by increasing the efficiency of nutrient utilization (Brooks and Whitekar, 1999). The experiments of Lindroth et al. (1993) on three species of saturnid moths showed that the performance of caterpillars is only marginally affected when the nitrogen content of the leaves is reduced by 23% and the carbon to nitrogen ratio increased by 13-28%.
RISING TEMPERATURE AND CARBON DIOXIDE ON HOST-INSECT INTERACTION
The capacity of an herbivore insect to complete its development depends on the adaptation to both, the environmental conditions and the host plant. The changed temperature, which promotes the expansion of insect’s range, may also involve a new association between an herbivore and its host. This has been shown by the pine processionary moth attacking the mountain pine (Pinus mugo) in the Southern Alps. The large outbreaks observed in the expansion areas on the new hosts may be explained either by the high susceptibility of the hosts or by the inability of natural enemies to locate the moth larvae on an unusual hosts or environment (Stastny et al., 2006).
The effects of a modified atmosphere on herbivore insects could also involve the third trophic level, i.e., their parasitoids and predators. A delay in the developmental time of the herbivores after exposure to high CO2, can increase the probability of parasitism and predation as well. Dury et al. (1998) showed that an increase in temperature by 3°C might lead to the same effect as that of an increase in CO2 (decreased nitrogen and increase in condensed tannins) on oak leaves. However, an increase in temperature may enhance the feeding of the herbivore and thus compensate for the negative effects of a lower food quality. The effects of different levels of CO2, nitrogen and temperature on the monoterpene production of Pseudotsuga menziesii was tested and it was indicated that the synthesis of these defense compounds were more affected by variability in individual trees rather than by the treatments (Litvak et al., 2002).
The response of herbivore insects to increased CO2 may also differ among the feeding guilds (Bezemer and Jones, 1998). Defoliators are generally expected to increase leaf consumption by about 30%, but leaf miners show a much lower rate. Phloem-sucking insects appear to take the greater advantage from increased CO2, as they grow bigger in a shorter time. Elevated CO2 increased the susceptibility of soybean to invasive insects by down-regulating the expression of genes related with hormonal defense, which down-regulate important anti- digestive defenses against beetles. Soybean respond to insect attack by producing defense compounds that inhibit digestive enzymes (proteinases) in the gut of insects, thereby reducing their performance and crop damage. The production of these anti-digestive compounds are regulated in plants by the hormone jasmonic acid. However, elevated CO2 levels disrupt this equilibrium in plant-insect interactions and benefit the herbivore.
PRECIPITATION AND PEST POPULATION
There are few scientific evidences on the effect of precipitation on insect pest population and their growth. Some insects are sensitive to precipitation and are killed or removed from crops by heavy rains. In some northeastern US states, this consideration is important when choosing management options for onion thrips (Reiners and Petzoldt, 2005). However, some insects that over-winter in soil, such as cranberry fruit worm and other cranberry insect pests, flooding the soil has been used as a control measure (Vincent et al., 2003). It is predicted that more frequent and intense precipitation events forecasted during climate may change have negative impacts on these insect pest population. Similar to temperature, precipitation changes can impact insect pest predators, parasites and diseases resulting in a complex dynamic manner. Fungal pathogens of insects are favored by high humidity and their incidence would increase by climate changes that lengthen periods of high humidity and reduced by those that result in drier conditions.
The greatest challenge facing humanity in the coming century will be the necessity to double our global food production to meet the booming increase in population by using less land area, water, soil nutrients, droughts from global warming and increasing insect damage to crops as insect migration expands. Understanding how these rapid anthropogenic changes in climate and atmospheric chemistry will affect the ‘goods and services’ provided by native and agricultural ecosystems, is one of the greatest scientific challenges of our time. Conversely, there are some indications that the interrelated effects of climate on plant and direct influence on natural enemies can make the overall effects difficult to predict and it is considered that not all climate change scenarios will be detrimental.
There are many interactions and it is extremely difficult to predict the impact of climate change on insect pests in the future, but we may expect an increase of certain primary pests as well as secondary pests and invasive species. It has been assumed that global warming will increase the prevalence of insect pests in many agro-ecosystems, but just to identify the problem is not enough, we need to find some solutions. IPM methods provide enough flexibility by which we will be able to deal with many of the pests. But reducing the amount of global warming is desirable. Global warming is one of the problems caused by human activities and can also be minimized by human activities. By acting now, we can mitigate the problem and will not have to face the doomsday forecasts of melting icecaps, flooded seacoasts, and species extinctions.
In India, the government’s agenda includes three main strategies. First, through international negotiations, gaining access to technology, funding and energy transfer to adapt to climate change. Secondly, through adaptation policies, such as implementation of the national action plan, which has eight core national missions running through 2017. The third strategy is to conduct research on climate change through a network of institutions. In addition, the private sector may also plays a major role through financing, development and deployment of technologies suitable for mitigating and adaptation to climate change.
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How the application of insecticides has created problems where there were not
Futurcrop - 16-05-2019
Several factors (monoculture, climate change, etc.), have influenced the uncontrolled development of pest populations in crops, but mainly the inadequate use of chemical insecticides has affected the natural balance between pests and their predators and parasitoids. General spectrum insecticides indiscriminately kill pests and their predators, both kill the pests that cause damage to crops and their natural enemies.
Red spiders mites (Tetranychus urticae), now a widespread pest in crops around the world, were never a serious pest in agriculture. The populations of the red spider mites were regulated by their natural predators, mainly by the predatory mites of the phytoseid family (although also other families such as some dipterans and coleoptera). But it has been human intervention that has broken that natural balance, through the indiscriminate and systematic use of synthetic organic pesticides since the second half of the 20th century. Twenty years later, populations of mites of the family Tetranychidae, such as the spider mite, are pests that can be very destructive in the agricultural sector.
The obscure mealybug (Pseudococcus viburni) usually do not constitute great damage in crops due to the control exercised over their population by their natural enemies, parasitoids and predators (the families of chrysopids, hemeropods, diptera and coccinellids). However, when the natural enemies of the insect are destroyed by the application of insecticides, the mealybug can be transformed into a harmful pest.
Therefore, the agricultural producer must assess the effect of the chemical treatments on the natural enemies of the pest that is to be controlled. Specific insecticides should be used to control specific pests, and it should be reduced the amount and spectrum of pesticides, in order to facilitate natural biological control.
Real time pest and vegetable diseases prediction models
Futurcrop - 16-04-2019
Currently, pest management techniques have changed drastically due to the following circumstances:
- Global Warming, which influence in a greater presence of pests throughout the year, in shorter biological cycles, and in the displacement of pests to areas where the climate previously prevented their development.
- Transnational trade transports pests to new areas, now with temperatures where they can develop, and where they have no natural enemies to control them. These transboundary pests cause serious damage to crops because in general they are not properly identified and there is no habitual knowledge about their management and control.
- The current and predominant agricultural production system, that uses chemical insecticides repeatedly, usually causes the development of pest resistance to insecticides. Chemical treatments are usually carried out without considering the stage of development of the pest, nor the conditions of the crop and in many cases without a real risk. Chemical treatments of a preventive nature are simply carried out, and according to calendar dates. Unnecessary applications imply unnecessary contamination, to the environment and to the crops themselves.
- Current legislation tends to demand the sustainable use of phytosanitary products, by reducing their risks and their effects on human health and the environment. The same legislation encourages the use of integrated pest management techniques, and alternative approaches or techniques to chemical methods.
In addition, there is currently scientific evidence on the effects of chemical insecticides on the environment and on the health of agricultural workers, such as recent studies on their harmful effect on pollinators, or the development of diseases in applicators who do not adequately use the protection equipment.
The reality is that most of the chemical treatments carried out are unnecessary, inefficient, and late in a 30% of cases. In order to solve this problem the agricultural producer needs to take more efficient decisions, more information about the real state of the biological development of the pest and the real risk of the disease. A system of information and prediction of pests and diseases such as FuturCrop allows the agricultural producer to assist in making decisions to carry out treatments against agricultural pests only when they are necessary.
In order to be efficient in pest management, the agricultural producer nowadays has systems that allows him to make efficient decisions for the management of plant pests and diseases. These systems allow to optimize and minimize the number of phytosanitary treatments, maintaining a level of control over pests and diseases superior to the one obtained at present.
The parameters used to determine the risk and the best possible moment to carry out the phytosanitary treatment are basically climatic, the type of pest or disease, and those related to the type of host. The availability of this information allows to determine exactly when it is necessary to sample or perform a treatment.
The use of these information models for decision making in the management of pests and diseases allows a considerable reduction in the number of applications with phytosanitary products, compared with the treatments carried out per calendar. And it is possible to get a reduction of chemical insecticides that can range between 30% and 50%.
Reasons to use forecast models of pests and diseases
- Because it provides information that allows efficient decision making.
- Because it allows to carry out the treatments only when necessary.
- Because many pests are vectors of viral diseases. So, by efficiently controlling the pest, the risk of crops suffering from the disease is greatly reduced.
- Because certain pests, characterized by outburst of population that are uncontrollable, can be easily controlled in the larval stages of their first generations.
- Because crops can be protected in their most critical growth states.
- Because the quality of the product is improved by reducing the number of chemical treatments, and therefore reducing the amount of chemical residues in crops, especially fruits and vegetables.
- Because nowadays farmers have fewer products to perform treatments, and at the same time they have the need to apply fewer treatments due to economic and legislative reasons.
Advantages for document management
- In Spain, Royal Decree 1311/2012, of 14 September, which establishes the framework for action to achieve sustainable use of plant protection products (which follows the guidelines of the Regulation of Parliament and Council No. 1107/2009, and Directive 2009/128 / CE) establishes that the treatments have to be registered in a field notebook, and economically and ecologically justified. The automatic modeling of the phenological state, the registration of the thermal integral that affects the development of the pests, the prediction of the biological development of the pest and the determination of the date of change of the biological stage of the pest, or of the risk of the disease , constitutes the adequate justification for the treatment.
- The register of monitoring, damage and treatments, and the corresponding reports facilitate traceability.
FuturCrop uses 179 pest models and 8 disease models affecting more than 45 crops
Unlike other support systems in pest management decisions, FuturCrop does not need the installation of a weather station, and the process of capturing and analyzing data is fully automated. FuturCrop sends warning messages when the adequate circumstances occur for the development of the pest, and the biological moment in which it is found, thus increasing both the effectiveness of monitoring and treatment. In addition, the computer application allows to predict the moment for the pest next biological event. For the proper functioning of the disease models, the system needs leaf moisture data, being compatible with any model of meteorological station or sensor. With this information FuturCrop establishes the risk levels of the disease, allowing preventive actions.
The use of new information technologies facilitate the sustainable development of agricultural production. In this sense, FuturCrop has been designed to provide an affordable and reliable support software for decision making in the management of pests and diseases, which can be used by both large landowners and small agricultural producers, so that the information that provides contributes to the effectiveness of monitoring, the consequent cost savings, and significantly reduce the risk of loss of harvest.
How to stimulate biodiversity and the biological control of pests
Futurcrop - 18-02-2019
The effect of chemical insecticides against pests, and also against their natural predators, and the simplification of the agricultural landscape, indiscriminately eliminating weeds, the native flora and shrub as a reservoir of useful fauna, are some of the main causes of the problem of the current proliferation of pests in the Agriculture.
Agriculture considered as an industrial process of food production, which increases production at the lowest cost and accelerates processes through chemical products, has caused serious environmental problems for years. Among other things, this production system favors the cleaning of fields of bushes, hedges, trees and shrubs. But this practice supposes the reduction of biodiversity in the agricultural landscapes and the elimination of the proper habitats of the native species of predators and parasites of plagues, and causes therefore a greater vulnerability of the crops to pests and diseases.
This intensification in agricultural production creates a high pressure of pests and diseases on crops, which is usually controlled with chemicals insecticides. However, numerous investigations show that the indiscriminate use of agricultural insecticides causes damage to the environment, to the farmer´s health, and to the consumer himself through chemical residues in the crops. Knowing the damages that these products can cause, the usual practice of the systematic use of phytosanitary products in agriculture is justified exclusively by the economic benefit. The use of chemical insecticides should be limited to the imperative, and used when more efficient. And for this it is necessary to have a knowledge of the biological development of the plague, through frequent (or automated) monitoring and predictive software of the population dynamics of pests, such as FuturCrop.
Among the methods of combating the action of pests, it is increasingly common to use predators and parasites as alternative means to phytosanitary products. The pest biological control is usually understood as the introduction of the pests natural enemies (exotic in many times). But this type of biological control usually requires specialized technical assistance, knowledge of the state of biological development of the pest, and its success depends to a large extent on the appropriate climatological conditions for its release. The biological control of pests is also often an expensive resource compared to the application of insecticides.
But the biological control of pests can also be promoted in a natural, conservative way, introducting of certain modifications in the agricultural environment, the habitats, which favor the presence of natural and native enemies of pests. For example, thorough the introduction or preservation of multi-specific hedges (at least 5 shrub species), in the agricultural environment, shrubs, foliage, vegetation cover, weeds that do not affect the crop, islands of vegetation, green corridors, margins of fields with wild flowers, etc. that allows establishing a reservoir of predatory or parasitic species of pests, ensuring their habitat and their food. In this way, increasing the diversity of natural enemies reduces the density of the pest populations.