Have you ever wondered how you can prevent and control the adverse effects of insect pests that may affect your crop yield? This article contains some best insect pest management practices you can adopt on your farm to control damaging insect pests before they damage your crop yield.
First and foremost, every crop farmer needs to have a basic understanding of entomology, which is the scientific study of insects and related arthropods. Related arthropods are sometimes studied because they have similar economic impacts to insects, an example is the Green Spider mite (Mononychellus tanajoa) and the red spider mite (Tetranychus spp.) on Cassava. They can cause over 80% yield loss if they are not effectively managed.
While there are many other branches of entomology such as Veterinary, Medical, and Forensic Environmental, the focus of the Afrimash live session was on Agricultural Entomology. This branch is concerned with studying insects that affect agricultural crops. They focus on Insects that attack our crops both in the field and in storage (e.g. cowpea insect complex).
Diving deeper into effective insect pest management practices, let’s take a look at this natural entity found in crops throughout the world- Insect Pests!
What is a Pest?
Any biological entity whose action has negative effects results in economic damage and warrants the application of control measures is regarded as a pest. Pests reduce the quality and quantity of valuable materials. The word pest originates from the French word peste which means Plague and also the Latin word pestis which means pest. Examples of pests are humans, bacteria, viruses, fungi, nematodes, weeds, rodents insects etc.
Of all the organisms that have been mentioned above, insects are the most diverse group of organisms, that is why we need to study them in order to understand them properly.
What Makes It Easy for Insect Pests to Attack Crops?
- They have relatively small and compact body sizes: This allows them to survive on little food and in small spaces
- Insect pests also have a relatively short lifespan. E.g. the housefly, Musca domestica has an average lifespan of about 28 days. They possesses an exoskeleton made of chitin and this helps them withstand harsh environmental conditions
- They have the ability to produce a large number of offspring sexually or asexually.
- They possess wings which aid their locomotion. This means they can easily flee from danger.
- They are universally distributed from the coldest to the hottest regions of the earth
Classification of Insect Pests
Though various classifications of insect pests exist but to classify them based on their occurrence, we have:
- Key or Major Pests: This category of insect pest is always present on particular crops and they cause significant damage to crops in the absence of effective control. E.g. Podagrica uniforma Aphis gossypii on Okra
- Minor pest. These are the less serious species of insect that are recorded feeding or ovipositing on a crop plant. Usually, they inflict only slight damage on the host, and often their effect is negligible
- Occasional Pests: These species cause economic damage to crops only at certain times of the year, period, season or places. They do not occur regularly because they. are regulated by certain ecological factors, e.g. Sylepta derrogata which causes economic damage on Okra only at certain periods.
- Migrant Pests: These species cause significant damage to crops outside their local habitats. E.g. Locusts (Locusta migratoria) moves in large number from one region to another and inflict significant damage to crops in their path.
Factors That Determine Pest Management Decisions
- Farmer’s perception of the problem
- Farmer’s needs and objectives
- Resources availability and allocation
- Choice of control option available
- Pest-host crop relationship
- Budget available
- Accruable benefits
- Pest density and Economic threshold
What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?
Integrated insect pest management is the practice of managing the population of insect pests in a given area using a harmonious combination of strategies in an environmentally friendly manner in such a way that the chemical approach is the last option.
The idea is to look for environmentally friendly means to break down the life cycles of these insect pests. Example includes:
Cultural method: Manipulation of the environment so that it becomes less favourable to insects. An example is the selection of resistant varieties of crops, Crop rotation and tillage, and proper timing of planting and harvesting.
Physical/Mechanical method: Involves the use of barriers such as traps, bug vacuums, destruction of infected plant parts (Epilachna punctipennis), banding of trees or removal by hand.
Biological method: This is the use of natural enemies of the pest to reduce
their population E.g the use of parasitoids.
Chemical method: The most common method of insect pest control. It is the use of chemicals in the control of insects.
At the first signs of pest infestation on your farm, consult an Entolomologist and Crop specialists who have the expertise not only in battling destructive insect pests but also in providing ways to prevent harmful insects from ever reaching your crops. Remember that prevention is always a better alternative than fighting against infestation, so be prepared.