Agriculture Made Sustainable, Episode 5: Pheromones and Organic Agriculture
“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?
The mechanisms we need recreate a pivotal function in delivering a healthy product. Creating a healthy product that conforms to organic conditions is strict without the fundamental instruments required to produce agricultural products. Although these tools independently may not have definite effects, they can operate on their own if the conditions are suitable. However, the objective setting is also highly crucial in this regard. One of these tools is pheromones. Pheromone, one of the most specialized tools used in biological control, recreates an influential function in organic farming. Pheromones are commonly used on insects and are known as insect sex pheromones.
“Insect sex pheromones are emitted by one sex, usually females, of a particular species in miniscule amounts, and are perceived by members of the opposite sex, eliciting complex behavioral responses including mate searching and mating. (Robert Krieger, 2010)”  These behavioral reactions have different manners that pursue a specific goal. “Insect pheromones are essential components of monitoring and management tools targeting pests of agricultural crops. Mating disruption, mass trapping, attract-and-kill, and push-pull are some of the direct pest control strategies that depend on the use of pheromones. (Sunil Tewari et al., 2014)” 
After identifying a key pest in a zone, we start to pinpoint and exploit the pheromone, depending on the biological structure, pest damage, the accumulation of the pest, and the damaging stages. These pheromones are made according to the genetic characteristics of the pest and begin to release disruptive or attracting substances immediately after installation in the recognized locations. In fact, in this targeting, the damaging cycle is desired, so when this destructive cycle is disrupted, it will reduce the pest density in the detrimental stage.
“Several environmental factors like rainfall, temperature, wind speed, and non-environmental factors including the size of the pest population, and the presence of migratory pests affect the effectiveness of pheromone traps. However, the usage of pheromone provides an eco-friendly and bio-rational way of controlling the pest in agriculture, which weighs the harmful effects of chemical pesticides. This review discusses various classes of pheromones and their usage in the eco-friendly management of insect pests. (Hossain Sohrawardy et al., 2015)” 
The Role of Pheromones in Sustainable Agriculture
By considering the biological control of pests, it can be inferred that pheromones, with their specific effect point in misleading pests and changing the damage cycle and directly lead to a reduction in chemical pesticides. If the process is accomplished with timely detection and monitoring, this intelligent process can reduce the amount of spraying pesticides during pest outbreaks. Pheromones create a confusing state for pests during mating and mating time by changing the direction of the pest's biological path. In this case, the crop passes its critical growth stage with the slightest disturbance by pests.
“A changing climate with higher growing season temperatures and altered rainfall patterns makes the control of native and invasive insects an increasingly urgent challenge. Intensified insecticide use will not provide a solution, but pheromones and other semiochemicals instead can be implemented for sustainable area-wide management and will thus improve food security for a growing population. (Peter Witzgall et al., 2010)” 
Pheromones and Integrated Management
Integrated management targeting has always been based on reducing the use of chemicals such as pesticides and even chemical fertilizers. On the other hand, the result of this purpose should be to reduce the amount of damage identified below the loss charts. Biological control and pheromones are considered to strengthen integrated pest management. Pheromones direct the pests to a decreasing slope by changing the rate of pest damage. This way is compatible with integrated management programs.
“Insect pheromone-related technologies for monitoring endemic pest populations, detecting invasive species, mass trapping for population suppression, and mating disruption has had a relatively recent history of development in IPM compared to biological control and insecticide technologies. New progress in the application of pheromones in IPM is being made in many areas, including the knowledge that mass trapping can be a highly effective and economically beneficial use of these behavior-modifying chemicals. (Thomas C. Baker, 2009)” 
Pheromones and Organic Production
Pheromones have a direct and covert effect on the production of organic agricultural products. The product, which is marketed as organic, has a strong background in various pest control and nutritional methods. On the other hand, physical and mechanical methods have also supported this healthy cycle. As one of the effective methods of healthy product production, Pheromones recreate a significant function in the organic production process. However, may it disguise from the consumer's point of view.
Although not all insects are harmful, we must admit that insect pests are a significant threat to crops and the production of profitable crops. Controlling the production of food for human life is a strategic matter. If in the past, farmers used different types of chemical pesticides to overcome the pest problem, which had adverse effects on the environment and human health; today, with the development of safer control methods, the use of pheromones to control insect pests. It has had many benefits. Although this development may not have spread to all regions of the world, hopefully, we can expect a prosperous future for these methods by producing content and information.
The role of specialized methods in pest control and timing required by integrated management in organic production is clearly defined. As various techniques and strategies are used to produce a healthy product, pheromones play a crucial role in this process. Mating disorders or insect mating disorders effectively reduce pest damage without the need for chemicals. Although chemical pesticides may be used in integrated management programs as part of the struggle, biological control methods can help reduce the use of these pesticides.
Author: Majid Zamanshoar
International Pheromone Systems: https://www.internationalpheromones.com
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Robert Krieger, Hayes' Handbook of Pesticide Toxicology (Third Edition), Chapter 3 - Pest Control Agents from Natural Products, [online] Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-374367-1.00003-3
Sunil Tewari et al., Integrated Pest Management, Chapter 9 - Use of Pheromones in Insect Pest Management, with Special Attention to Weevil Pheromones, [online] Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-398529-3.00010-5
Peter Witzgall et al., Sex Pheromones and Their Impact on Pest Management, [online] Available at: https://indiabiodiversity.org/biodiv/content/documents/887.pdf
Thomas C. Baker, Integrated Pest Management, Use of pheromones in IPM (Chapter 2), [online] Available: https://ento.psu.edu/files/528baker2008radcliffbookproofs.pdf
Hossain Sohrawardy et al., Eco-Friendly Management of Insect Pests In Agriculture by Pheromones: A Review, [online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tofazzal-Islam/publication/358078249_ECO-FRIENDLY_MANAGEMENT_OF_INSECT_PESTS_IN_AGRICULTURE_BY_PHEROMONES_A_REVIEW/links/61eef02ac5e3103375ba03e3/ECO-FRIENDLY-MANAGEMENT-OF-INSECT-PESTS-IN-AGRICULTURE-BY-PHEROMONES-A-REVIEW.pdf