Biopesticides and Integrated Crop Management



ICMBiopesticides are formulations made from naturally occurring substances that control pests by non-toxic mechanisms and in an ecofriendly manner. They may be derived from animals, plants, microorganisms and include living organisms, their products or byproducts which can be used for the pest management. Biopesticides are used primarily as preventive measures, so they may not perform as quickly as some synthetic chemical pesticides do. Biopesticides are generally less toxic than chemical pesticides, often target specific pests, have little or no residual effects hence pose less risks to human health, the environment and have acceptability for use in the organic farming. Biopesticides may be categorized into three major groups: plant-incorporated protectants (PIPs), biochemical, and microbial biopesticides. While microbial biopesticides use microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses or protozoans) as active-ingredient, biochemical pesticides are naturally occurring substances from plants and animals. PIPs are produced naturally on genetic modification of a crop plant, such as Bt cotton. Such transgenic plant produces biodegradable protein with no harmful effect on animals and human beings, and thus curtails the use of hazardous pesticides. PIPs may be more effective and economical strategies in the developing countries to help produce more food, feed and forages in an environmentally safer manner.

Integrated Crop Management (ICM) is a pragmatic approach to crop production which includes Integrated Pest Management (IPM) focusing on crop protection. ICM is based on understanding the intricate balance between the environment and agriculture, and is a whole-farm approach in achieving a proper balance. Its basic components are crop management, nutrient management, pest management and ultimately financial management. One of the main objectives of ICM is reduction of external farm inputs, such as inorganic fertilizers, pesticides and fuel by means of farm produced substitutes. Although complete replacement of these inputs is not possible without significant loss of yields, but partial substitution of the inputs can be achieved by the use of natural resources. ICM assumes a broad palette of available disease and pest control methods, such as biological, cultural and physical controls, host plant resistance, and decision support tools. In recent decades, the focus on crop production has moved from yield to quality and safety, then more recently sustainability. ICM and IPM strategies combine a range of complementary methods to reduce pest populations below economic injury level while minimizing impacts on other components of the agro-ecosystem and environmental conditions of the area. While considering pest and disease management, the use of biological control methods is considered to complement physical and cultural methods. In ICM, synthetic pesticides are treated less as a blanket solution to crop protection and more as a tool to be used selectively in ways that complement other methods and thus minimize the chances of resistance development in pests. Evidences show that biopesticides can be valuable components of ICM for promoting sustainable agriculture. Biopesticides have gained lot of interest in the last decade particularly in view of the growing demands for organic foods.

Biopesticides and Environmental Issues

Although pesticides are developed through very strict regulatory processes to function with reasonable certainty and minimal impact on human health and the environment, increasing public concern about the potential adverse effects of synthetic agrochemicals prompts search for the technologies and products safer for the environment. Moreover, due to the problems of pesticide resistance and withdrawal of some pesticides for either regulatory or commercial reasons, a fewer chemical pesticides are available in the global market. Hence, ICM approach needs to be deployed to counteract degradation of the agro-ecosystem due to the ongoing intensive agriculture. This would include the use of biofertilizers, biopesticides, IPM, soil and water conservation practices, biodiversity conservation etc.

A better understanding of genes from micro-organisms and crop plants has allowed isolating genes effective against particular pests, and they are being deployed to control insect pests and diseases of crop plants. Benefits of the use of biopesticides in agriculture and public health programs are considerable. They do not have residual effects which is a matter of significant concern for consumers, particularly in case of fruits and vegetables. When used as a component of IPM, efficacy of biopesticides can be equal to the conventional pesticides. Interest in biopesticide is gaining because of its advantages associated with environmental safety, target-specificity and efficacy in very small quantity, natural decomposition and suitability in IPM. Thus, biopesticides are one of the promising alternatives to manage environmental pollutions. They can replace some of the hazardous chemical pesticides. Though potential of biopesticide for promoting sustainable agriculture has been known for years, it has gained interest in view of the growing demands for safe and healthy organic food. Although use of agrochemicals is indispensable to meet the ever growing demands of food, feed and fodder, opportunities do exist in selected crops and niche areas where biopesticides can be used as a component of IPM. Increasing demands for residue-free crop produce, growing organic food market and easier registration than chemical pesticides are some of the key drivers of the biopesticide market.

There are rising concerns for conservation of biodiversity and threats to some of the endangered species, set against the requirement to increase agricultural production without excessive reliance on chemical pesticides. Development of biopesticides has largely followed a chemical pesticide model that does not exploit fully the favorable biological properties of the biological agents. While there is commercial pressure from the manufacturing side to develop products, based on a single strain that are broad spectrum in order to control a range of pests on different crops and may not be endemic to the areas of application; the environmentalists want narrow spectrum products based on strains from the area of use. To reconcile these divergent demands, biopesticides in the market have been maintained at minimal negative impact, if any, on the environment.

Fuente: Suresh Kumar and Archana Singh - Division of Biochemistry, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, India

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