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Sa Fruit Journal June July 2021 Integrated Pest Management Web Main
June / July 2021

Integrated Pest Management – Are we there yet?

SA Fruit Journal: June / July 2021

As early as 2500 BC, Sumerian farmers used sulphur to control insects and mites on their crops, illustrating the long history of the use of chemicals in agriculture. By Elise-Marie Steenkamp

Today, the drive to do away with agrichemicals has never been stronger. Pressure groups in Europe want a full phase-out of chemical pesticides by 2035. But exporters worldwide are following these developments with a measure of concern. Removing certain registered chemicals without replacements could potentially place food security at risk, or significantly increase production costs.

Chemical activism is nothing new. As early as the 1950s agriculturists were forced to rethink their production strategies when chemical resistance was first recognised as a problem. By the 1970s environmentalists, social-political activists, academics, and agriculturists turned to the integrated management of pests as the holy grail of future agriculture.

In SA, the deciduous fruit industry has supported an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programme for the past 35 years.

Matthew Addison, crop protection manager at Hortgro Science, explains what IPM is: “A simple definition would be the management of pest and disease populations using a variety of methods, including physical, cultural and biological agents.”

He explains further: “Management actions are aimed at maintaining pest and disease populations below economic injury levels. IPM has evolved over the years in symmetry with new technologies. The release of sterile insects and the widespread use of pheromones to suppress pest populations are good examples. More recently the advances in agricultural ecosystem research have led to a better understanding of the dynamics of pest and disease populations in agriculture.”

According to Addison IPM differs from conventional pest control in that the latter relies on the routine (calendar) application of pesticides in order to control pests and disease.

“IPM differs significantly from this approach as pest and disease populations are intensively monitored and management actions are applied only where and when needed. IPM would not rely exclusively on the application of chemical control agents, but it would rather opt for the least ecologically disruptive method at the appropriate time.”

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