Farmers have long relied on pesticides to control pests. Yet a growing awareness that excessive use of chemicals threatens biodiversity and human health is leading to the development of data-driven, eco-friendly farming practices. Advanced technologies even empower farmers to put some bugs to good use out in the field.
How technology is making it possible to track pests in real-time
There is a strong connection between pesticides and soil, groundwater, and air contamination. However, recent advancements in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) supply farmers with precise data to combat the spread of insect infestation without chemicals.
While the concept of IPM has been around for years, new technological tools are turning it into an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management. Autonomous in-field sensors track pests in real time. The information is bolstered with satellite, drone, and weather data. Moreover, AI and machine learning now make it possible to analyse data from the field, producing much more accurate projections.
Farmers can apply such predictive data to use pheromone disruption, more precisely, ovicides, insect growth regulators, feeding deterrents, RNAi, sterile insects, and organisms that kill pests – natural enemies.
Beneficial bugs front and centre
Successful IPM begins with the correct identification of the pest. Only then can a farmer select the appropriate methods to apply in the field. Technology-driven Integrated Pesticide Management systems are helping farmers respond to pest problems more quickly and effectively by clearly identifying what is known as beneficial insects. Indeed, most fields contain far more good bugs than harmful ones.
Beneficial insects are a natural source of biological control and coordination of pests, soil formation, nutrient cycle, maintaining soil moisture, and pollination of plants. Insect pollinators are essential to producing more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species. Similarly, despite chemical-based pest management, beneficial insects annually provide U.S. farms with at least $4.5 billion in free pest management.
Despite their critical contributions to the ecosystem, many beneficial insects are seriously declining. Habitat loss and degradation, pesticide use, and climate change are the key drivers of this disconcerting trend.
How farmers benefit from good bugs
Beyond the critical environmental advantages, beneficial bugs provide the basis of the food pyramid for the entire insect community. And an abundance and diversity of insect life lead to better outcomes for farmers. According to noted agroecologist and farmer Jonathan Lundgren: “Predators, pollinators, granivores that eat weed seed, herbivores that help to regulate weeds — all of these things are significant.”
“The number of insect species on [a] farm correlates directly with how much profit [it] generates,” Lundgren concludes.
Sensors, drones, satellites, and other advanced technologies are when integrated into an overall smart farming system, capable of recognising and evaluating beneficial insects. As a result, lady beetles, syrphid flies, lacewings, and other good bugs that prey upon crop pests have reduced and, in some cases, eliminated the need for pesticides: good news for our world, good news for our farmers.
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