What are the methods of pest control in agriculture? Let’s find out the most effective management options.
Pests are organisms that interfere with the yield of agricultural ventures in crop production or rearing of animals. They affect a farm’s productivity, which is why farmers over the years have come up with different methods of combating or controlling it.
Pests are significantly harmful to man and his source of survival. This goes to say that, as far as agricultural practices remain the lifeline of human existence, pests are big threats. The only way farmers can win is when they can come up with the safest and most effective method of pest control in Agriculture.
Pest Control is the strategy adopted to curtail or eradicate the presence of crops or animals destroying pests on the farm.
Recently, there has been a lot of modification and improvement of pest control methods in Agriculture. Farmers now have a wide range of options for pest control methods to adopt for higher agricultural productivity. However, the method of pest control to adopt depends largely on:
- The type of pest that needs to be controlled.
- The type of farming- whether it is crop production or animal rearing.
- The scale of agricultural production.
- The effect on the product. For instance, if you are to use pesticides to control larvae pests in crops, you’ll need to take into consideration the effect of the chemical on the crop that will be consumed eventually.
- The effectiveness of the method adopted
Pests can be divided into two main categories; Micro and Macro Pest.
MICRO PESTS are very little and physically insignificant organisms that bring significant damage to crops or animals. Most times, their presence is evident by the damage they bring on crops or animals.
On the other hand, MACRO PESTS are bigger; they also can cause monumental damage to agricultural produce. This is the reason why a pest control method must be adopted to eradicate pests or reduce their population to the barest minimum.
METHODS OF PEST CONTROL IN AGRICULTURE
There are four main methods of pest control in Agriculture;
Mechanical Pest Control
This is an old method of controlling the pest. It is literarily getting rid of the pest by killing them or creating barriers that prevent them from attacking the agricultural produce.
This method is more effective for macro pests and small scale agricultural production. But with recent modification, especially as a result of the need to adopt a method of pest control that is ecofriendly, farmers have come up with better strategies for combating pests mechanically.
Some of the practices of the mechanical method of pest control include;
- Handpicking – this is practically picking and getting rid of pests.
- Setting Traps – this is most effective for macro pests.
- Building fences – to prevent the unwanted presence of the macro pest.
- Creating Scarecrows – setting up scarecrows will help prevents birds from eating up the crop.
- Using High-Pressure Water Sprays – a lot of pests cannot survive the pressure from equipment like the Water Wand. The use of Water Wand is one of the modifications of the mechanical method of pest control in recent times.
- Trap Cropping – this is used to trap the pest by using a plant that draws the attention of pests so that they are distracted from the crops on the farm. The best way to get rid of the trapped pest and prevent them from going back to the crops is to use pesticides on them.
- Using Electronic Bug killers – this is also a recent advancement in the mechanical practices of controlling the pest. This bug killer is designed to attract the bugs; once the pest or bug gets to the equipment, it will be dead.
The mechanical method of pest control is a very harmless and ecofriendly way of keeping pests away, but it is ineffective when you have a large farm or when there is a high population of pests on the farm.
Cultural Pest Control
This is also a very old and traditional method of controlling the population of pests to increase the farm’s yield. The cultural pest control method is geared at interrupting the pest’s life cycle.
Some of the practices of the cultural pest control method are;
- Crop rotation – The constant plantation of a different crop on the soil will help get rid of the pest. For instance, if the host crop of the pest was maize, the pest will be eradicated automatically once the farmer plants something entirely different.
- Weeding or Tillage – By constantly weeding or tilling the ground, a lot of the pests are exposed to other predators.
- Maintaining a clean environment – Most pests thrive in a dirty environment, so the best to get rid of them is to make it impossible for them to breed.
- Inter-cropping – This is a practice where different crops are planted on a piece of land. By inter-cropping, it will be difficult for the pest to survive.
- Crop Spacing – When the crops are properly spaced, it will prevent the pests (especially micro pests) from traveling from one crop to the other.
Cultural Pest Control is another natural and ecofriendly way of controlling the pest. The flaw of this method lies in the fact that it can only serve as a preventive measure; it cannot be used as a solution for a possible pest outbreak.
Biological Pest Control
Biological methods of controlling the pest in times past would refer only to the process of engaging the predators of the pest to reduce the population of such pests. But with continuous research and development, more biological means have been discovered and invented.
Biological pest control is aimed at conserving the ecosystem by protecting agricultural produce as well as conserving the natural enemy. Biocontrol employs ‘biological agents’ to reduce pests or eliminate their negative impact on agricultural productivity, such that it brings about an ecological balance.
Biological agents could be any of the classes of living things, from the micro-organisms to the complex multi-cellular organisms.
Biological Pest Control could come in any of these forms;
- The process of engaging the predator of the pest to get rid of the pest. For instance, a cat can be used to reduce the population of mice.
- The process of introducing a parasite to infect the pest. A typical example is the case of the hornworm caterpillars that were destroying the leaves of a lot of crops, so they were infested with the braconid wasp parasite.
The braconid laid their eggs in the caterpillar’s body, and when they hatched, they used the caterpillars for nutrients, and so, the caterpillars died.
- Genetic intervention in the form of breeding the agricultural product for resistance against pest attack. In this case, instead of trying to get rid of the enemy, a stronger immunity is built for the host so that the pest is naturally eradicated. An example is the breeding of potatoes that were immune to potatoes blight- caused by a fungal parasite.
- Genetic intervention in the form of genetically re-engineering the pest to make them sterile. The natural life cycle of these pests is altered such that the female cannot reproduce and will also die as a result of the toxins released to them while mating. This genetic intervention is still in theory.
This is considered highly effective because it gets rid of the pest as soon as the chemical is applied. However, this method is considered harsh because it is not only capable of destroying the organism for which it is used; it can also affect the host negatively.
More so, the effect of the chemicals tends to wear out over time because once the organism for which it is used against can develop resistance against it, it will pass on the genetic trait to posterity.
This then leads to the use of a higher concentration of chemicals, which will have adverse effects on both crops or animals and the pest.
In a worst-case scenario, the chemicals end up contaminating waterways and cause more damages than the pest you are trying to get rid of would have done.
Below are types of chemicals that are used for pest control
- Fungicides; are chemicals that help to destroy fungi.
- Insecticides; these are substances that are used to get rid of micro pests like insects, including larvae and eggs.
- Nematicides; are chemicals that kill the plant’s parasites like nematodes.
- Rodenticides; are chemical pesticides that help to get rid of rodents like rats or mice. A lot of rodenticides are very poisonous. Examples of rodenticides are;
- Metal phosphides
- Hypercalcemia-causing Pesticides
Yet some household chemicals are not as harsh and are quite capable of getting rid of pests. They are;
- Soapy water.
- Beer- the beer is used to distract pests. For example, the snail can be distracted from eating the leaves when the beer is provided.
- Nicotine Spray- you can make a nicotine solution by taking one cup of dried tobacco, mix it with a gallon of warm water. Add a tablespoon of soap and spray it to get rid of micro pests.
- Alcohol Spray- you can get a spirit or strong alcohol and mix it with water and apply directly on your plants
The shortcoming of this method is that it may not be as effective when using it on a large scale agricultural production.
I hope you have benefited from this discussion, outlining the various methods of controlling pests in agricultural fields.