How are agricultural pests currently being managed?

Category: Genetic Biocontrol Other Problems

Chemical pesticides are very commonly used for pest control in agriculture, although the degree of dependence varies by country. This includes insecticides for insect pests, herbicides for weeds, and fungicides for plant pathogens. Various types of good farming practices, such as crop rotation and integrated pest management programs, offer approaches intended to reduce pesticide dependence. Organic production employs many of the same concepts but avoids use of synthetic pesticides entirely. Classical biocontrol methods involving dissemination of natural enemies have demonstrated promise for reducing damage by invasive insect pests. Sterile Insect Technique, which employs dissemination of radiation-sterilized pest insects to reduce productive mating and thereby diminish pest population size, has been deployed against several agricultural pests, perhaps most widely for screw worm and Mediterranean fruit fly. Additionally, there has been increasing interest in bioengineered crops, such as those containing a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that makes them insect resistant.

Nonetheless, the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that between 20 to 40 percent of global crop production is lost to pests annually. Extensive exposure to synthetic and organic pesticides has raised concerns about their adverse effects upon the environment and human health, and fosters the emergence of resistance that necessitates increased usage and ongoing development of new alternatives. Global food insecurity is an ongoing challenge, which climate change may only exacerbate.

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