Agriculture Made Sustainable, Episode 1: Insects and Organic Farming

“Agriculture Made Sustainable” is a Food Circle project designed to create an awareness-raising process about sustainable agriculture, especially organic farming. It discusses the barriers, problems, challenges, advantages, and disadvantages of sustainable development in organic agriculture. Since various sectors such as plant nutrition, pest control, plant protection, soil, seeds, agricultural tools, and machinery are parts of the process, awareness can promote and develop sustainable agriculture to reduce the adverse effects of climate change global warming.



What are we talking about?


Insects have a long history of competing with humans on Earth. They have lived on Earth for millions of years and have learned long-term biological solutions from nature. There has always been a close competition between humans and insects to earn more food, and it seems that this competition will never have a definite loser!


“Insects play fundamental roles in providing services for animals and plants, such as pollination of native plants and crops, the turnover of nutrients, and reducing pest species via natural enemies. Many other insect species are pests of crops and forests, carriers of disease, invasive, and nuisance insects to humans. They are also likely to be affected by climate change and may even pose considerable risks to sustainable food production or human health. (Nigel R. Andrew and John S. Terblanche 2013)” [1]


“The challenge is: that we have changed the Earth's ecosystem to produce more, and insects have made significant behavioral changes in how they interact with humans.”

Most importantly, humans have destroyed most of the green areas of the planet in recent years, which was the planet's breathing space, to get more food from more places. These non-constructive interactions between humans and nature have also affected the performance of insects as human competitors.


For a long time, the essential method of controlling insects was chemical pesticides, many of which were considered high-risk groups. Successive defeats of insects accompanied this struggle. But when it came to resistance in the body and insect genes, the first reason insects survived in nature for millions of years appeared: resistance gene and now toxin resistance!


“Durable crop protection is an essential component of current and future food security. However, the effectiveness of pesticides is threatened by the evolution of resistant pathogens, weeds, and insect pests. Pesticides are mostly novel synthetic compounds, and yet target species are often able to evolve resistance soon after a new compound is introduced. (Nichola J. Hawkins et al. 2019).” [2]


Optimistic Interaction with Insects!


Many insects live in nature to survive by hunting other insects and also killing them to grow their species by establishing a parasite-host relationship (parasitoids). This unique feature of insect life has led humans to take measures to control key pests in agriculture to reproduce these insects further to fight key pests.


Insects have never been human enemies. When humans attacked insects' meager portions of food, they demanded the same small portion from humans. However, this sudden infestation of insects and the state of key pests was also due to the destructive action of humans.


As soon as humans decided to engage in new interactions with insects after the late 1940s and the devastating consequences of pesticides such as DDT and Endosulfans, the friendly approach between humans and insects was constructive and positive.


For example, human friendship with the Australian ladybird led to controlling the Australian cottony cushion scale pest and using no pesticides! Examples of this led entomologists to identify beneficial species of insects and use them as parasites and predators to control outbreak pests. In some other examples, “the adult females of insect parasitoids forage for hosts, which are typically the immature stages of other insect species. Females lay one or more eggs in, on, or near the host, and the resulting progeny that develop successfully consume and kill the host. (George E. Heimpel et al. 1996)” [3]


Today, many business examples worldwide are working on this topic and have been very successful. There are generally two widespread forms: (1) Insectariums, which are responsible for breeding beneficial insects, producing species, and putting them on the farms and gardens. Finally, they release them into nature. These insectariums typically operate through regional and government contracts. They are associated with various institutions and organizations. (2) Companies that produce these insects using technology for more specialized vital pests. These companies provide a more accessible commercial form for public use.


“Insect in interaction with insects” strategy has been one of the most successful methods of controlling key pests, which reduces the rate of pest damage in agricultural products to the lowest amount. One of the main advantages of this strategy is the reduction of the consumption of hazardous chemical pesticides. On the other hand, by using the life cycle and biology of insects in opposition to each other, the population of insects in nature is balanced. Thus an insect will not become a key pest and dangerous.


Our Final Thoughts and Conclusion:


The role of beneficial insects in organic farming and healthy food production is undeniable. These creatures help us to have the best food security. On the other hand, damage to the environment is prevented. Also, beneficial insects have played a very influential role in the framework of integrated management programs. According to the goals and programs of sustainable development, more specialized use of these insects can help reduce global warming and revive a healthier environment.


Author: Majid Zamanshoar


 

More Information:


  • Kenis, M. et al., Guide to the classical biological control of insect pests in planted and natural forests, [online] Available at: https://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/CA3677EN/

  • S. M. Louda, et al., Invasiveness of Some Biological Control Insects and Adequacy of Their Ecological Risk Assessment and Regulation, [online] Available at: https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1523-1739.2003.02020.x

  • H. Pschorn-Walcher, Biological control of forest insects, [online] Available at: https://www.fao.org/3/x5399e/x5399e03.htm

  • Ann E. Hajek et al., A review of introductions of pathogens and nematodes for classical biological control of insects and mites, [online] Available: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocontrol.2006.11.003


Business Case:


  • Koppert Company: https://www.koppert.com/products-solutions/

  • Company Youtube Videos: https://youtu.be/Hj3DwimxvvY, https://youtu.be/BQaWbDFxzyE, https://youtu.be/Zg-cKzQAG_U, https://youtu.be/mHXOefz8Pk0


 

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References:


  1. Nigel R. Andrew and John S. Terblanche, The response of insects to climate change, [online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/258568703_Andrew_NR_Terblanche_JS_2013_The_response_of_insects_to_climate_change_In_Salinger_J_ed_Climate_of_Change_Living_in_a_Warmer_World_Auckland_David_Bateman_Ltd_38-50?enrichId=rgreq-c76e10292b2034e22ab81196ea117155-XXX&enrichSource=Y292ZXJQYWdlOzI1ODU2ODcwMztBUzoxMjQyNzcwMzg3ODQ1MTJAMTQwNjY0MTM2MzU4Mw%3D%3D&el=1_x_2&_esc=publicationCoverPdf

  2. Nichola J. Hawkins et al., The evolutionary origins of pesticide resistance, [online] Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/brv.12440

  3. George E. Heimpel et al., Predation on adult Aphytis parasitoids in the field, [online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Marc-Mangel-2/publication/225171630_Predation_on_adult_Aphytis_parasitoids_in_the_field/links/5496d69c0cf20f487d3162b9/Predation-on-adult-Aphytis-parasitoids-in-the-field.pdf


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