Pest management: Make it fly

26 February, 2014 by (comments)

Feeding the 9 billion people expected to inhabit the planet in 2050 will be enough of a challenge for agriculture without giving half of the production away to… pests.

Today arthropods, diseases, and weeds take away up to half of the crop production in developing countries (against 25 to 30 percent in high-income countries).

“Crop losses to pests have remained high, and have even increased in some cases, despite a 15- to 20-fold increase in pesticide use since 1960,” explains Soroush Parsa, entomologist in CIAT’s Agrobiodiversity Research Area.

“The situation is quite alarming especially since agricultural intensification, trade globalization, and climate change will most certainly increase pest crop problems in the future,” he warns.

pest_management_ipmSince the 1960s, integrated pest management (IPM) has been endorsed and promoted globally by scientists, policymakers, and international development agencies as the dominant crop protection paradigm.

There are many definitions of IPM, but all involve the use of multiple, complementary methods to suppress pests in a safe, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly manner.

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Despite IPM’s unanimously recognized potential, developing countries are not adopting it, and what discourages them remains unclear.

A survey involving integrated pest management professionals and practitioners from 96 countries revealed an interesting divide. While participants from high-income countries blame the lack of local capacity to implement IPM, their counterparts from developing countries actually appear to worry significantly more about weaknesses inherent to IPM itself, and in particular about the fact that IPM requires collective action within a farming community in order to succeed.

“All agree that alternatives, like the extensive and uncontrolled use of pesticides, could seriously damage the environment and indeed human health. Such a poor level of adoption of IPM is therefore really paradoxical,” says Parsa.

“We need to understand why developing countries are not implementing IPM if we are to really bring about its full potential.”

“Improving the participation and representation of stakeholders from developing countries into the IPM adoption debate seems a reasonable first step in that direction.”

Link to study, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/02/19/1312693111.abstract

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Filed Under: Agro-ecology and Economics @en, Crops @en