Growers having pest problems at their operations may be interested in the utilization of non-traditional pesticides and biocontrol methods.
Joe Noling, Extension specialist at the University of Florida, spoke with AgNet Media at the recent Florida Ag Expo about grower use of biocontrol methods. “Repeated use of anything is going to select towards an organism that can tolerate more and more of a given product. Organisms that become tolerant to pesticides produce offspring that are now deemed resistant.”
The naming and descriptions of pesticides can often send up red flags to consumers. Noling discussed how the word “pesticide” can trigger a negative perception with concern about what the chemical compound is and the justification of its use. Utilization of organisms as biocontrol of pests, such as bacteria used to control an insect, comes with parameters and factors that need to align to achieve control. Controls of fungus, weeds and pests can have detrimental effects on a biocontrol. Other issues include compatibility in respect to the amount of control achieved by biocontrols and the amount of time taken to achieve desired results.
There are many factors involved in the use of biopesticides, but the biggest factor is the target pest. Choosing a method of control requires investigation into the compound and its efficacy or activity against the pest. A product’s specificity for a given pest is important and requires an established scale of efficacy of products against the target. Many products do not provide a high level of control and require increased frequency of application to achieve desired results.
“The key components for growers who use biopesticides are timing, knowing your crop production and identifying the pest,” says Noling. This control method still requires further research and investigation. Biocontrols are very site specific, depending on the type of operation, environmental facts, crop, etc. Biopesticides are not globally strategized; they are farm specific to meet the parameters of an operation’s issues and goals.
Control of pests all comes down to economics, whether it be with an organic or inorganic compound. The grower must attain a benefit from a control to validate its usage. The largest challenge a grower faces is choosing a strategy or combination of strategies and determining the benefit of the controls, Noling says. Justification can come from higher yields or improved quality.
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