pest control

6 alternative ways to control pests in farming

Attacks from pests, insects, fungi and other harmful organisms on the crop are capable of causing great damages to the farmer.

In such cases, the farmer generally uses only pesticides. Despite its proven efficiency, there are now several alternative ways to control pests in crops.

We prepared this article to show you which of these techniques complement traditional methods, and bring advantages to both the entrepreneur and the end consumer. Check them out below!

How is pest control done today?

The most common and widely-known technique today is chemical control. In fact, pesticides are very effective and important products for pest control, especially when the harmful agent is already present in the crop. These are products that require compliance with various norms and rules, such as the use of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) and attention to grace periods.

However, the excessive and inappropriate use of pesticides has worried many farmers and researchers, since the control of pests, invasive plants and diseases in the crop is becoming increasingly difficult. Repeated spraying without proper monitoring and control may result in the selection of organisms resistant to these products. The inevitable result is increased production costs and, in more serious cases, the loss of the entire crop.

For this reason, several alternative ways to control pests in the field have been developed and applied in the field to complement and reduce the use of pesticides, bringing encouraging results for farmers. So let’s talk about these initiatives!

What alternative methods can help with pest control?

1. New application technologies

When spraying, it is very difficult to get the entire product to be deposited solely on the target. Often, part of the pesticide is lost due to drift, evaporation or reaching an unwanted surface. This reduces the amount of product on the target.

The technologies that come with agricultural equipment have the initial objective of improving and making the application of pesticides more efficient, reducing losses as much as possible and dosing the amount of product used in the right measure.

Telemetry systems, for example, are able to calculate the dosage and volume of applied products based on data taken from the climate — such as temperature and humidity levels —, from machinery and from soil conditions, also performing a complete diagnosis of the crop in order to optimize operations and make it more efficient. With this, telemetry contributes to increased productivity and cost reduction between 3% and 15%!

These resources are part of precision agriculture — a set of technologies and techniques used to systematically record and analyze data on the various factors that can influence production. Information on weather variations, production volumes, crop losses and pesticide expenses are gathered and evaluated. The results serve to devise strategies and actions to eliminate waste and increase productivity per hectare.

2. IPM — Integrated Pest Management

Varying the pesticide and applying less are the two basic rules of IPM — Integrated Pest Management. This approach encompasses a set of alternative techniques proposed by the scientific community that reduce pests to harmless levels for crops.

Integrated Pest Management techniques provide the business with great savings in the purchase of agrochemicals, as it is possible to reduce the number of applications through data analysis and constant monitoring of the plantation.

An additional result is that operators spend less time exposed to products, which contributes to preserving their health and integrity. In addition, there are direct benefits in protecting natural resources, such as soil and rivers, as the chances of contamination are reduced.

3. Biological control

Biological control is the use of natural enemies to control agricultural pests. These beneficial organisms can be insects, predators, or even microorganisms (such as bacteria and fungi).

They are not harmful to people’s health or the environment and do not leave residues in the fields. An example is Baculovirus, which attacks the soybean caterpillar. It can be dissolved in water to be sprayed, and it does not pose a risk to human health or contaminate soil and water sources.

By using a type of biological control, the producer is able to delay the pesticide application, as a good proportionality between populations of beneficial insects and pests is achieved — this means that fewer interventions will be necessary.

4. Crop rotation

When the same crop is produced repeatedly in the same place (monoculture), it is common for the occurrence and amount of pests and diseases to increase. On the other hand, crop rotation prevents the establishment and multiplication of a disease.

Through this agricultural technique, the farmer can plan to alternate the types of vegetables grown in the field. In addition to controlling pests, the practice also helps to preserve the good physical and biochemical conditions of the soil, to replace organic matter and facilitate fertilization.

5. Organomineral pesticides

Organominerals are fertilizers that contain concentrations of organic carbon and nutrients that are beneficial to the crop, in amounts that vary according to the consistency of the product — solid or liquid — or the way in which it will be applied. This material can be of plant, animal or industrial origin. They are substances easily absorbed by plants through their leaves, stem and root, improving physiological processes, such as photosynthesis, and activating metabolism.

Although not directly one of the alternative ways to control pests in the field, organominerals nourish plants in such a way that they become more resistant to attack by pests and diseases. Therefore, it will be necessary to use fewer pesticides to guarantee their final quality.

6. Pheromones for attracting (and eliminating) pests

This technique consists of using pheromones to control insect pests in crops. This substance is a natural agent used by these organisms to communicate with other insects of the same species. They “transmit” various warnings, such as the presence of predators, demarcation of territory, reproduction, etc.

For example, to control bed bug pests in soybean and rice plantations, Embrapa carried out research with the male of the species, removing the natural pheromone exhaled by the insect and manufacturing it in the laboratory. From there, devices are spread that release the pheromone in traps, attracting and capturing the females.

All these alternative ways to control pests in crops reduce the use of pesticides in production and increase productivity, in addition to increasing the quality and safety of food offered to the final consumer.

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