Let's be honest, Episode 12: Biological Control in Sustainable Agriculture

Let’s be honest is a Food Circle’s project with the aim to open up the conversation about the challenges when being or becoming a member of the SC (Sustainability Club). This series will shine a light on the different approaches to make life more sustainable, as well as the step-backs and difficulties that arise. Being more kind and understanding, instead of critical, will hopefully help to encourage us to try, instead of giving up when facing a step-back or failure. This is made possible thanks to Sapient, the mother company of Food Circle, which every year offers internships to students from all around the world creating a uniquely multicultural environment.

Let’s celebrate the achievements and give room for honesty and struggles!

"The long-term goals of sustainable development are achieved by implementing organic farming methods and using biological control materials."

What are we talking about?

Today, the topic of health, in the quality of food industry products, is one of the main pillars of sustainable agriculture. Organizations, companies, and farmers are trying to take serious steps in this regard. It is one of the biggest challenges in the agricultural sector because of the confrontation between classical agriculture and sustainable agriculture. In many parts of the world, this is a questionable challenge.

“The complexity of the agriculture and food supply system, together with the opportunities and challenges that we will have to be faced for its sustainability, has been emphasized. Prioritization of the means to develop a viable, less resource-intensive, and more beneficial mechanism will be necessary given the economic and resource constraints. Therefore, this analysis of the interlinkages between the various challenges helps guide the critical decision-making processes in order to come up with scenarios that would reverse any negative trends. (Ozgul Calicioglu et al. 2019) [1]”

How can we produce a high-quality product, that complies with organic standards, without using chemicals?

This question is part of the challenge of sustainable agriculture, especially in developing countries. Still, the main concern arises when sustainable businesses have produced this type of matching product and have to face competitors in the market. Also, the cost of goods must be such that it is in line with the global culture of sustainable development.

“The introduction of rational approaches for the environmental risk assessment of non-native control agents is an essential step in the wider application of biological control. Future success is strongly dependent on a greater level of investment in research and development by governments and related organizations that are committed to a reduced reliance on chemical control. Biological control is a key component of a ‘systems approach’ to integrated pest management, to counteract insecticide-resistant pests, withdrawal of chemicals, and minimize the usage of pesticides. (J. S. Bale et al., 2007) [2]”

When the pressure to be sustainable is added to biological control in agriculture, we consider the potential of biological control tools and materials, which can significantly compensate for integrated pest management (IPM) programs. The main issue is that the production of a 100% organic product without pesticides and chemical fertilizers requires very effective biological control tools.

The use of pheromones, traps, biopesticides, organic fertilizers, multifunctional compounds enhances compelling examples in the field of biological control. For instance, a study concerning biological control of storage pests (after harvest) found it that “the results concerning the efficacy, specificity, and applicability support the inclusion of biological control in integrated pest management programs in Stored Product Protection (SPP). The integration of different methods shows great promise in Stored Product Protection (SPP). A residue-free and environmentally-sound system could be achieved, for example, by the combination of hygiene, monitoring, biological control, and modified atmospheres. Moreover, if the whole economic picture, including ecological aspects, is considered, and biological control methods are fully explored; the position of biological control within integrated pest management in stored-product protection strengthens. (M. Scholler et al., 1997) [3]”

Pheromones have been one of the most common biological control methods in recent years. The unique properties of these pheromones are regulated based on the pest's life cycle and are set according to the type of pest life. A variety of sex pheromones and pheromones compatible with insect behavior can contribute to the development of sustainable agriculture in the production of healthy and organic products. Some products without the need to use pesticides have brought the population of pests below the economic injury level.

“He gave it for his opinion, that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before would deserve better of mankind and do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together. (Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels; Voyage to Brobdingnag, chap. 7) (Hannah Gay, 2013) [4]”

In the case of merged areas, using pheromones as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) cycle can help reduce the use of chemicals in agriculture. “Biological control has been a valuable tactic in pest management programs around the world for many years but has undergone a resurgence in recent decades that parallels the development of IPM as an accepted practice for pest management. (David Orr, 2009) [5]”

Our final thoughts and conclusions:

The credibility of implementing biological control methods in the direction of sustainable development of organic crop production and healthy food is not far away. The long-term goals of sustainable development are achieved by implementing organic farming methods and using biological control materials. As mentioned in this article, this type of confrontation exists in the agricultural production industry, and its effects on the production cycle are also visible. The transition from an old system to a process based on sustainable development requires the implementation of SDGs; the pillars of biological control products can be one of these tools, as mentioned in the text.

Today's human beings are moving towards modernity according to their needs and the problems that urban life has imposed. Pure consumerism can create many problems in production, and we will be forced to use chemical methods to obtain more food per unit area. This also causes secondary problems because food wastage will increase. Optimal culture building in organic agriculture is significant, especially in underdeveloped countries. Also, this culture building concerning reducing food waste is necessary for all countries.

Author: Majid Zamanshoar



  1. Ozgul Calicioglu, Alessandro Flammini, Stefania Bracco, Lorenzo Bellù and Ralph Sims, The Future Challenges of Food and Agriculture: An Integrated Analysis of Trends and Solutions, [online] Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/11/1/222

  2. J. S. Bale, J. C. van Lenteren and F. Bigler, Biological control and sustainable food production, [online] Available at: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2007.2182

  3. M. Scholler, S. Prozell, A. G. Al-Kirshi, and CH. Reichmuth, Towards Biological Control as a Major Component of Integrated Pest Management in Stored Product Protection, [online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/223949230_Towards_biological_control_as_a_major_component_of_integrated_pest_management_in_stored_product_protection

  4. Hannah Gay, Before and After Silent Spring: From Chemical Pesticides to Biological Control and Integrated Pest Management - Britain, 1945–1980, [online] Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1179/174582312X13345259995930

  5. David Orr, Biological Control and Integrated Pest Management, [online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225837858_Biological_Control_and_Integrated_Pest_Management

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