Future Prospects

In many parts of the world it is recognized that there has been too great a reliance on pesticide use and not enough on improving agricultural practices. There is increasing pressure to move towards minimizing pesticide usage in order to both improve the environment and to reduce cost. This is being done by using newer, more specific pesticides and by adopting improved agricultural practices and integrated pest management (a combination of biological and chemical control).

Biological control is not new. In the 1930s Macro-centrus homonae was introduced into Sri Lanka from Indonesia to control the tea small leaf roller (Adoxophyes) with such success that no chemical control measures are needed for this pest even today. More recently there have been some impressive results from using predator insects, for example in the control of cassava green mite (Mononchellus tanajoa) in West Africa and white fly in European greenhouses.

In terms of agricultural practice, improved crop hygiene, crop rotation, better understanding of optimal timing of application, and varying sowing dates, together with the development of more powerful and more discriminating pesticides has brought about a decrease in pesticide inputs. This is seen dramatically in the case of oil seed rape (canola). Less than 1% of the weight of herbicide applied to this crop in 1983 was applied in 1993.

Unfortunately pests develop resistance to individual pesticides over time and research is continually needed to develop both new pesticides and resistant varieties of crops to keep the pests in check. There has been some success with new pesticides having new modes of action such as the antifeedants and antimolting agents, but this will be a continuing battle for the foreseeable future.

See also: Phytochemicals: Classification and Occurrence; Epidemiological Factors.

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