Pest control with chemical products has many disadvantages, including its high cost and the risk of contamination that it entails, both for food and for the environment and our health. For this reason, biological pest control is revealed as an ecological and very effective alternative, especially in the long term.
If you want to learn more about the biological pest control, what it is, advantages, disadvantages and examplesthen keep reading us in this EcologíaVerde article.
What is biological pest control
In the biological pest controlwhat is used to eliminate species considered pests is nothing more than the introduction of some of their natural predators on the plantation. In this way, the pest is eliminated without the need to use chemical products of any kind and, furthermore, without any harmful impact on the product or the environment.
Biological pest control came into use in 1880, when it was imported Rhodolia cardinalis, a species of ladybug, to the US from Australia to fight the ribbed mealybug. The success of the measure, which resulted in permanent effects and a tremendously favorable cost/effectiveness ratio despite the initial investment, meant that this type of pest control began to gain support.
Between the biological pest control strategiesthree basic ones are distinguished:
The importation consists of the introduction of the organism that will be the biological control agent. Although a priori it may seem very simple, carrying out the introduction in an adequate and controlled way requires in-depth knowledge and a studied strategy. Because of this, biological pest control is one of the methods that requires more knowledge.
The increase consists of taking measures so that the natural enemies of the pest to be eliminated see their population increased. It can be used both on native agents and on others released by import and, although it was traditionally considered very expensive, its costs are now becoming more affordable, due to the growing number of specialized companies dedicated to the release and inoculation of controlling agents.
Finally, conservation consists of trying to implement measures that help maintain the populations of natural enemies. It is the least studied strategy and the most complex to apply, since it requires a deep knowledge of the functioning of the agroecosystem.
Advantages of biological pest control
The main advantages of biological pest control are that:
- It allows fighting against these without having to resort to insecticides or pesticides, products that are toxic and harmful to both human health and the natural environment.
- In addition, this method has a permanent effect in many cases, thus providing the best long-term effects.
- Its effectiveness/cost ratio is also skyrocketing and, although it requires initial investments that are sometimes expensive, in the long run it is the most economical of pest control methods.
Disadvantages of Biological Pest Control
Of course, this method also has drawbacks. So these are the main disadvantages of biological pest control:
- As we have already mentioned, its most important drawback is that it requires action plans, strategies and, in general, much more knowledge than other, simpler application methods.
- Its action time is notably slower than pesticides, since you have to wait for the predator to settle and multiply to end the pest.
- When used in conjunction with other forms of control, such as pesticides, the pesticides intended to kill pests may also affect the population of the controlling biological agent.
Examples of biological pest control
Apart from the case described above about ladybugs and ribbed mealybugs, this insect being also effective against pests such as the cottony mealybug and also aphids, these are two examples of biological pest control very simple:
the white fly
This insect, which tends to attack tomato, cucumber, bean, pepper and tobacco plantations, causes great damage to crops due to its rapid spread, which is usually accompanied by fungal attacks and viral infections. The most common agent to use in their combat is the fly encarsia formosa. This small parasite (approximately 1 mm) lays its eggs in whitefly larvae, causing them to become parasitic that continue to spread, thus killing the pest that consumes the plants.
The thrips, a well-known insect less than 3 mm in size, feeds on the nutrients in the leaves, stems, flowers and fruits of plants, causing tissue necrosis and death. You fight using the Mites Neoseiulus barkeri Y Amblyseius cucumeriswhich prey on thrips larvae and thus put an end to the plague.
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