Effective pest control is important for protecting crops, plants, property, and public health. However, it is also important to ensure that control methods are environmentally safe and do not harm non-target species or the broader ecosystem.
The principles of precision agriculture mean implementing various technologies such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the Global Positioning System (GPS), Variable Rate Technology ( VRT ), and Remote Sensing (RS) in order to monitor the situation in the agricultural fields and based on the generated data to execute the needed operation properly.
As a result of the properly executed operation, the farmer has the ability to control the nutrients in the soil, occurrence of weeds, pests, and diseases on a micro-management level, and ultimately provide the optimal condition to achieve the desired yields.
What is pest?
Pest refers to any organism that can cause harm, damage, or nuisance to crops, plants, animals, humans, or the environment.
In agriculture, pests can include insects, mites, rodents, birds, nematodes, weeds, and other organisms that can reduce crop yields, damage crops, or spread diseases to crops.
Pests can also be a problem in urban and suburban areas, where they can damage homes and property, spread disease, and create a nuisance.
What is pest control? Why it is important?
Pest control is the process of managing, reducing, and eliminating pests that can cause harm, damage, or nuisance to crops, plants, animals, humans, or the environment.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), pests and diseases are responsible for an estimated 20-40% of global crop losses each year. This translates into billions of dollars in economic losses for farmers and the global food system.
It can be achieved through a variety of methods, including chemical treatments, biological control, cultural practices, and physical barriers.
Chemical treatments involve the use of pesticides or other chemicals to kill or repel pests. Biological control involves the use of natural predators or parasites to control pest populations.
Cultural practices involve altering the farming or landscaping practices to reduce the likelihood of pest infestations. Physical barriers such as screens, netting, and fencing can also be used to prevent pests from entering a specific area.
Pest control in agriculture production systems
Obtaining high yields, especially in climates where predominantly is humid, often requires the application of fungicides in order to get rid of harmful effects of different pests and diseases that can potentially lower the yield or in the worst-case scenario disrupt the whole production season.
The pests, as the focus of this article, have their own way of prospering and surviving on the agricultural plots.
Various pests have various stages of development, different speeds of going through that stages, and different mechanisms to battle against the environmental effects, as well as the anthropogenic activities i.e. application of pesticides.
Pest management in agriculture is defined as “utilizing environmentally sensitive prevention, avoidance, monitoring, and suppression strategies, to manage weeds, insects, diseases , animals and other organisms that directly or indirectly cause damage or annoyance.”
Effective pest management relies on the use of any tools or strategies to reduce the impacts of pests on crops in order to meet landowner objectives.
What is Precision pest control in agriculture?
Precision pest control in agriculture can be defined as the utilization of technologies and strategies for monitoring, prevention, avoidance, and suppression of pests, diseases, weeds, and other living things that are directly or indirectly disrupting the agricultural production processes.
The solutions are relying on different tools and methods to reduce the impacts of pests on crops. Such tools and methods are divided into two major distinct categories:
- Tools and methods for monitoring the pest occurrence and presence. In the context of precision farming for this category, there is a utilization of several technologies such as GIS, GPS, and RS.
- Tools and methods for prevention and suppression of pest occurrence. In the context of precision farming for this category, there is a utilization of several technologies such as GIS, GPS, RS, and VRT.
Two approaches of precision pest control
Precision pest control in agriculture systems that implement precision technologies can be realized in two approaches:
1. Area-wide pest management in agriculture
Area-wide pest management is implemented in order to act preventively on pest outbreaks on a larger spatial resolution where many agricultural plots are included.
Acting under this approach means implementing Integrated Pest Management activities and all the available technologies that enable remote sensing of the pest occurrence and their stages of development.
The remote sensing technologies implemented in this approach are satellite and UAV imagery with NDVI and hyperspectral indices, GIS software for calculating the area of the affected fields, and agricultural IoTs that can remotely measure the environmental parameters and the presence of pests in order to feed the disease and pest models for forecasting the severity of the outbreak.
The IPM methods are used mostly because of their success in offering long-term solutions, preventing major outbreaks, and more sustainable management procedures for growers to use.
2. Site-specific Pest Management in agriculture
This approach is the absolute opposite of the approach explained above, which means that the precision pest control is done in a smaller site-specific management zone that can be even found on one individual agricultural plot.
Apart from the above-mentioned technologies for monitoring, in this approach, there is also extensive use of the Variable Rate Technology that enables the farmers to act precisely.
The methods in this site-specific control are more conventional, which means using specific pesticides in order to eradicate the pest or to act alleviate when the damages or the complete development of the pests is already present.
In these conditions, the VRT enables the farmers to lower their input costs for pesticides, as well as to reduce the negative impacts on the environment from using such chemicals.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the best way to prevent pest infestation?
The best way to prevent pest infestation is through integrated pest management (IPM) practices. Firstly, practice good sanitation by removing food sources, cleaning regularly, and properly storing crops and products.
Secondly, monitor pest activity through regular inspections, scouting, and use of traps. Thirdly, employ cultural methods such as crop rotation, companion planting, and maintaining healthy soil to discourage pests.
Lastly, utilize biological controls like natural predators or parasites, and if necessary, use targeted and judicious pesticide applications as a last resort. By combining these strategies, farmers can effectively prevent and manage pest infestations while minimizing environmental impact.
2. How are pests controlled in a crop field?
Pests in a crop field can be controlled through various methods. Firstly, cultural practices such as crop rotation, proper spacing, and maintaining healthy soil conditions help reduce pest populations.
Secondly, biological control involves introducing natural predators or beneficial insects to control pests. Thirdly, mechanical methods like handpicking or trapping can physically remove pests from the field.
Lastly, if pest populations reach damaging levels, targeted and judicious use of pesticides can be employed. Integrated pest management (IPM) combines these approaches to effectively control pests while minimizing environmental impact and ensuring crop health.
3. What is integrated pest management in agriculture?
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an approach in agriculture that aims to minimize reliance on chemical pesticides by integrating various pest management strategies. It involves monitoring and identifying pest populations, setting action thresholds, and implementing a combination of cultural, biological, and chemical control methods.
4. How does the government combat agricultural pests?
The government combats agricultural pests through various measures. Firstly, they conduct research and develop pest management strategies to address specific pests and crop diseases. Secondly, they establish regulatory frameworks and enforce standards for control practices and pesticide use.
Thirdly, government agencies provide education and training programs to farmers on pest identification, prevention, and management. Lastly, they may offer financial assistance or subsidies to farmers for implementing pest management practices and investing in pest-resistant crop varieties.
By taking these actions, the government plays a crucial role in safeguarding agricultural crops and ensuring food security.
5. What are the methods of pest control?
Methods of control include various approaches to manage pest populations. The methods include:
- Cultural control
- Biological control
- Chemical control
- Mechanical control
- Integrated pest management (IPM)