Pest management is an ecological matter. The size of a pest population and the damage it inflicts will depend on the design and management of an agricultural ecosystem. If the system design is faulty—making it easy for pests to develop or making it difficult for their natural enemies—then farmers will have to expend unnecessary resources (think: energy costs) for pest management. Ecological pest management can reduce expensive chemical inputs by creating more habitat for the “good guys”—more biodiversity.
We’ve come to accept routine use of biological poisons and fertilizers made from fossil fuel. But continuous application of these chemicals represents significant energy inputs into the agricultural system, and carries both obvious and hidden costs to the farmer and society. Substituting chemical inputs for ecological design is an increasingly expensive, never-ending cycle, and an exercise in futility and inefficiency.
Ecological pest management uses common-sense principles to deal with pests and their parasites and predators. The idea is to increase the environmental pressure against pests, and provide habitat for beneficial organisms. You want to creatively manipulate your cropping systems to your advantage.
Many seemingly small interactions in an agricultural ecosystem can combine to create effective pest management and overall health of the farm system. Don’t be shy—
Ecological pest management is based on preventing pest problems before they happen. With this approach, farmers can avoid the costs of pesticides as well as the fuel, equipment and labor used to apply them.
In the July 2005 issue of BioScience, Cornell University researcher Dave Pimentel reviewed a 22-year trial comparing conventional and organic corn/soybean systems: “Organic farming approaches for these crops not only use an average of 30 percent less fossil energy,” he reported, “but also conserve more water in the soil, induce less erosion, maintain soil quality, and conserve more biological resources than conventional farming does.”