Alternatives to pesticides are available and include methods of cultivation, use of biological pest controls (such as pheromones and microbial pesticides), genetic engineering and methods of interfering with insect breeding.
Application of composted yard waste has also been used as a way of controlling pests. These methods are becoming increasingly popular and are often safer than traditional chemical pesticides. In addition, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is registering reduced-risk conventional pesticides in increasing numbers.
Cultivation practices include polyculture (growing multiple types of plant), crop rotation, planting crops in areas where the pests that damage them do not live, change in planting time according to when the pests will be least problematic and use of trap crops that attract pests away from the real crop.
In the United States, the farmers control the insects successfully by spraying hot water at a cost, which is about the same as the pesticide spraying. Release of other organisms that fight the pest is another example of an alternative to pesticide use.
These organisms can include natural predators or parasites of the pests. The bio-pesticides based on entomo-pathogenic fungi, bacteria and viruses causing diseases in pest species can also be used for controlling the diseases in vegetable crops.
Interfering with insects’ reproduction can be accomplished by sterilizing males of the target species and releasing them so that they mate with females but may not produce offspring. This technique was first time used on the screwworm fly in 1958 and since then it has been used with the medfly, the tsetse fly and the gypsy moth.
However, this can be a costly and time-consuming approach, which works only on few types of insect. Another alternative to pesticides is the thermal treatment of soil through steam.
Raising soil temperature by passing steam through the steel pipes laid down into the soil 45 cm below the surface kills the pests and improves the soil health.
In India, traditional pest control methods include Panchakavya (the mixture of 5 products). The method has recently experienced resurgence in popularity due in part to use by the organic farming community.
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