This is why biological controls, not pesticides, are better in agriculture
The world population increases and this implies the need for better food.
In order to satisfy the demand, producers use pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers to produce more and prevent the pests from ending up with the crops.
However, this is not healthy, since the high toxicity of these compounds causes the death of millions of species.
The most aggressive pesticides have been banned for years in Europe, but they are still found in river basins.
In addition to affecting animal and plant species, according to the UN, the inappropriate use of these substances causes the death of 200,000 people a year, especially in developing countries, where environmental regulations are easy to violate.
But are pesticides really necessary to feed the world?
A scientific article published this month in the journal Communications Biology reveals that it is not and proposes natural controls as an effective alternative to pesticides.
Experts advocate for biological control of pests and assure us that it relieves the pressure on the land and contributes to the conservation of the natural environment.
The authors of the work are a group of researchers from the University of Agriculture and Forestry of Fujian in China and the Center for International Cooperation in Agronomic Research for Development (CIRAD), that includes experts in insects, biologists specialized in ecosystem conservation, agroecologists, and geographers.
The advice is to eliminate the widespread belief that the biological control of pests represents a danger both for crops and for humanity because it is less effective.
To account for this, researchers focus on one of the biggest enemies of cassava, a shrub extensively cultivated in America, Africa and Oceania for its roots with starches of high nutritional value.
The results of the work are aimed mainly at producers in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, which cover almost the entire world cassava export market, as they offer an effective solution to stop the proliferation of cassava cochineal, an insect that began to devastate extensive areas of cassava crops in Thailand in 2008.
Farmers reacted by spraying their fields with toxic insecticides that posed a high risk to people and the environment. They did so in reaction to losing 20% of the expected profits for that year.
Afterward, the Thai authorities asked for help from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Benin, which decades ago had helped several African countries to control this plague.
They succeeded by introducing the parasitic wasp of the species Anagyrus lopezi, which deposits its eggs in the cassava cochinchilla. The larvae contained therein feed on the host, thereby ending it quickly.
Given the success in Africa, the same technique was implemented in Thailand in 2010 and, thanks to this, a large part of the infested hectares were recovered in 2008 and deforestation was also significantly reduced.
In this sense, a series of satellite images published now show a reduction of 30 to more than 90% of deforestation in some points.
Cassava is a very versatile product since it can be turned into feed for animals or even industrial products such as adhesives or paper. It also serves in the pharmaceutical industry and, of course, the food industry.
The case of cassava is just one example of how biological controls are at the very least as good in controlling plagues as pesticides are said to be, but without polluting soils or water.