Cultural controls are methods of managing pest populations that have been used for a long time. Although natural pesticides were being used to control pests, these methods were quickly abandoned when synthetic pesticides were developed. There was little research done on natural pest control methods after synthetic pesticides became available. Because cultural controls are preventative rather than curative, they require long-range planning. The results of Integrated Pest Management were often variable and difficult to evaluate in the past because they depended on a detailed understanding of the relationships between crops, pests, natural controls, and the environment, most of which was poorly understood. Most farmers eventually switched to using more toxic chemicals to solve pest problems because they were more reliable and didn’t require as much knowledge or skill.
Nowadays, pest control is very different from when it first started. There has been great progress made in understanding the relationships between crops and their ecology, as well as the development of computer models that can predict some pest behavior. Additionally, society is now more demanding of solutions that don’t rely heavily on toxic chemicals. Pesticide accidents, the detection of residues in recreational environments, drinking water, foods, and human tissues, and the increase in the incidence of pesticide-related allergy and petrochemical sensitivity have led to concerns about the safety of pesticides. The growing interest in the relationships between food quality and human health (and the associated expanding organic food market), the decreasing effectiveness of many pesticides as more and more pests become resistant to them, and their increasing costs are also factors in the debate over the safety of pesticides.
This situation has been responded to by scientists in the pest control industry by advocating for a pest management philosophy known as integrated pest control (IPM). At first, these approaches, encouraged by the chemical companies, emphasized the efficient use of pesticides, claiming that problems associated with these poisons could not be avoided if they were used correctly. Although it is commonly thought that pesticides are only harmful when used in excess, there is evidence to suggest that problems can occur even when used as directed. This isn’t surprising because most pesticides are lethal to both the insects that are harmful to humans, and the ones that aren’t. Pesticides also usually miss their target. It seems reasonable to assume that we will eventually have to restrict the use of pesticides to social emergencies that are important (for example, it is possible that in the future, controlling a tobacco pest will not be considered a socially important emergency.)
The next step in developing IPM was to find less harmful substitutes for pesticides, such as hormones, sex attractants, traps, and biological control agents. Although these methods are less intrusive and can be effective, they don’t address the underlying causes of the problem. The farmers are kept dependent on experts and suppliers of products and the pests are considered enemies that need to be eliminated.
IPM systems are evolving to see pests as indicators of problems rather than enemies. It is also becoming clear that ecological knowledge is the key to appropriate environmental designs and management methods that can keep pest numbers at acceptable levels. This approach involves using a combination of cultural and bio-ecological controls to prevent potential pests from becoming problems. Intrusive controls, including certain pesticides, are only used in emergencies.
Further advances in this approach are only possible if we identify and remove the obstacles to the development and implementation of cultural methods of pest control (and their integration with other agricultural goals and practices). One of the main problems is that there is not enough research, training, services, equipment, and crop species and cultivars. In order to address these issues, we will need to change our values and attitudes, focusing on nutritional quality instead of cosmetics, and managing pests below the level that we are comfortable with.
Cultural controls, or methods of preventing and controlling pests through changes to the environment, are not currently foolproof. The approaches to agriculture discussed in the text vary in how environmentally friendly they are and how much knowledge and skill is required to implement them. Some of the more environmentally friendly approaches require more knowledge and skill to implement, while some of the less environmentally friendly approaches require less knowledge and skill. I have tried to focus on the latter group of approaches in the following survey.
The goal of cultural controls is to make the environment less inviting for pests and to make it more difficult for them to survive, move around, and reproduce. This includes promoting the pest’s natural predators. We want to reduce the number of pests so that they’re either below the level where they can cause economic damage, or low enough that natural or biological controls can be effective.
IMPLEMENTATION OF CULTURAL CONTROLS
In order for the cultural controls to be effective, the following actions need to be taken.
Governments should have a main policy for food and agriculture that make sure everyone is getting the right nutrition sustainably, without causing problems for future generations. Creating a policy around agricultural pests would require figuring out effective ways to manage them. A committee consisting of representatives from the appropriate departments, as well as the private and public sector, could be established in order to create a policy on the matter. This policy would then be open to public discussion before it is implemented.
Legislation should be established to permit the appropriate government departments to, if necessary, develop regulations that would require farmers to cooperate in the application of certain cultural control programs, e.g., collection and destruction of June drop and fallen apples in orchards; destruction of certain types of prunings and crop residues, synchronized planting, and seeding of certain crops; destruction of alternative hosts of certain pests, etc. Such regulations already exist in several European countries and in Australia.
There needs to be legislation to make sure that people who use Class 1 and 2 pesticides are not only good at using them safely, but also know how to use safer alternatives, like cultural controls.
Governments should review their programs, policies, and regulations to see if they are encouraging farmers to use pesticides. For example, some programs may have standards that unintentionally encourage the use of pesticides to make the food look better.
The government should set aside funds to support research on sustainable methods of food production that don’t rely on harmful pesticides.
A list of priorities should be established, focusing on long-term participatory (on-farm), multidisciplinary team research. As more and more research is funded by grants that come from partnerships with industry, it’s important that the government make sure to priorities areas of research that are based on processes rather than products. These areas, which are often focused on culture, are not usually interesting to industries, but they should be given priority anyway.
In order to increase excitement and curiosity about this topic among scientists, governments should set aside money to pay for conferences discussing different pest control methods that don’t involve chemicals, and bring in experts on the subject from various places.
There is a need for research to be conducted both internally and externally by granting organizations to universities, the private sector,farm organizations, as well as innovative farmers.
Many government officials feel that funds for pesticide research should be gradually eliminated and replaced with research into other methods of pest control. These officials believe that the pesticide industry should be the one to provide funding for this research.
Many farmers are unhappy with the amount of pesticides they have to use and would like to avoid them if possible. However, they often find that the people who are supposed to help them solve these problems, extension agents or agronomes, are not very helpful. A solution to this problem would be to offer short courses to these agents so they can learn about different ways to control pests, including methods that are based on culture. Individuals who are trying to start companies that sell services and supplies relating to safe alternative controls should be supported, including those who are using cultural controls.
- Training and Education
Most of the recommendations will only be successful if there are educational programs available that cover the design and use of cultural controls. This text is discussing options for supporting the study of cultural controls for agriculture. This could include creating a position at a university for someone to teach this courses, as well as preparing materials to help teach these methods.
- Public Education
Although the public’s awareness is changing, there is still much work to be done to help them understand that most insects are beneficial and that the cosmetic quality of food is not a good indicator of nutritional quality. A deeper understanding and appreciation of farmers and their essential role in society is necessary. We also have an expanded responsibility to consider the needs of future generations when making decisions. A public education campaign that is creative and intensive should be used to get these messages across.
FOUR ORGANIC PEST CONTROL OPTIONS
- Neem oil
Neem oil is a naturally occurring pesticide made from neem tree seeds. Azadirachtin is an insecticide found in neem oil. It is the most active ingredient in neem oil, meaning it is most effective in killing insects. But neem oil without azadirachtin also has insecticidal properties.
Neem oil products are available in spray bottles that are ready to use.
Neem oil controls a wide variety of insects. The insecticide works by suffocating insects and mites, coating their bodies in oil. The pesticide is most effective when used on insects that are still growing.
Oil is not very effective against adult insects, so they can still reproduce after the insecticide is applied. To get rid of the pest, you will need to apply neem oil at the right time in the pest’s life cycle.
Neem oil is only slightly toxic to fish and other aquatic animals, making it a low risk for humans, other mammals, and birds.
If you don’t apply the organic pesticide correctly, it can harm honey bees. The University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources recommends using neem oil at night or early in the morning to prevent contact with pollinators.
Neem oil can help to get rid of various pests in their early life stages, including leaf miners, thrips, whiteflies, mealybugs, spider mites, caterpillars, aphids, beetles, lace bugs, and leafhoppers. It also targets the fungal disease powdery mildew.
- Diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth is a non-toxic powder made from fossilized microscopic aquatic organisms called diatoms.
So how does it work? Sprinkling DE around your plants will create a barrier against pests. DE powder has edges that are sharp and abrasive. They damage the insect’s exoskeleton and lungs. Diatomaceous earth also known as DE, dehydrates pests by absorbing the exoskeleton’s fats and oils.
Prolonged exposure to DE can irritate the lungs of people or animals. When applying DE, wear a protective mask to avoid inhaling the powder.
If bees and other pollinators come into contact with DE, it can be harmful to them. You should only apply the powder in areas where you don’t see the insects crawling, in order to protect them. Do not put powder on crops that bees and butterflies pollinate, as this will kill them.
DE is not harmful to fish or other creatures that live in water.
The DE controls pests such as cockroaches, ants, cutworms, millipedes, ticks, fleas, slugs, sowbugs, and other soft-bodied insects.
The natural substance spinoisad is created through the fermentation of the soil bacterium Saccharopolyspora spinosa. It kills bugs either when they come into contact with it or when they eat leaves from plants that have been treated with it. Spinosad usually lasts longer on plants than Bacillus thuringiensis.
The chemical in Spinosad attacks the nervous system of the pest, causing it to become paralyzed and die.
According to the University of Connecticut Integrated Pest Management Program, spinosad has a very low chance of causing harm to birds, mammals, and many aquatic invertebrates, a moderate to slightly higher chance of causing harm to fish, but a high chance of causing harm to marine mollusks.
While Spinosad is toxic to bees, the pesticide becomes much safer to use once the residue has dried. Avoid applying the pesticide when bees are active.
Spinosad can be used to control many different types of pests in your lawn and garden, including everything from caterpillars and leaf miners to spider mites and thrips. It’s also effective against squash bugs, squash vine borers, fruit flies, mosquitoes, diamondback moths, Colorado potato beetles, ants, cabbage worms, and tomato hornworms.
- Bacillus thuringiensis
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a microbe that is found naturally in the environment, typically in soil. The bacteria produces harmful proteins that can kill insect larvae if ingested. The toxins in the pesticide activate in the pests’ gut, causing them to die from infection and starvation.
Organic gardeners will need to pay close attention to the life cycles of their target pests. The pesticide is most effective on larvae, and you will need to reapply it when new larvae are hatching.
Bt products are available as sprays, dust, and granules. Applying a spray to your plants is often the best method because it is more likely to stay on the leaves than if you were to just apply dust.
There are many different strains of Bt that target different pests. The israelensis strain of BT aims to kill mosquito and black fly larvae, whereas the kurstaki strain is meant for caterpillars. Before purchasing a Bt pesticide, check the product label to see against which pests it is effective.
Nevertheless, as with all foreign proteins introduced into the environment, there is a theoretical possibility that it may cause allergic reactions in people who aresensitive to it. There is a low chance that Bt will be toxic to people or other mammals, however as with anything else that is foreign introduced into the environment, there is a slight chance it may cause an allergic reaction to people who are sensitive to it. The Bt strain aizawai is highly toxic to honeybees, but other strains have minimal toxicity to honeybees. This means that it is important to beekeepers to carefully select the strains they use to avoid harming their hives. The pesticide has minimal toxicity to fish.
The specific pests that are controlled by a given strain of Bt bacteria vary depending on the particular strain in question. Bt strains are effective against many pests in the early stages of their life cycle, including mosquitoes, black flies, Japanese beetles, elm leaf beetles, and caterpillars.