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Alternatives to Pesticide Use

There are different options to be considered during the planning of a farm.  One of the considerations is how to protect one’s crop without using harmful pesticides of any kind.  Through different cultivation methods, using biological controls or reproductive controls, different pheromones, or quarantine, pesticides do not have to be used in farming without losing lots of the crop.

Using different cultivation methods, plants can be developed stronger and more naturally resistant, and also predators of pests can be brought into the crop fields.  Interplanting mixtures of plants uses alternate rows of plants to avoid a monoculture.  The alternate row of planting can provide a habitat for predators of pests to the other row.  For example, molasses grass attracts wasps that lay their eggs inside insects that destroy the stems of corn plants.  Strip cutting is similar in that only one segment of crop is harvested at a time, leaving a better suited habitat for natural predators of pests.  Timed planting, irrigation and fertilizer are all methods of making plants stronger and healthier so they have better chances of fending off pests naturally.


different animals used for biological control


Biological Controls use naturally occurring disease organisms, parasites, or predators to control pests.  This is especially effective when exotic species become a problem because their natural predators can be taken from their native land and applied to kill the pest.  Biological controls are not only insects, but can also be bacteria that work to kill pests.



Reproductive Controls reduce the pest population by sterilizing some of its members.  In many cases the sterile male technique is used, which sterilizes only males with radiation or chemicals because in many insect species males mate many times while females only mate once.  This must be continually carried out or else the species will rebound quickly.


Pheromones are natural substances produced by animals to stimulate a response in other members of the species usually used to attract individuals for mating.  Pheromones can be made once the specific pheromone structure for a species is known and used to lure pests into traps, or simply sprayed into the air to confuse pests so they cannot locate a mate.  Hormones are chemicals produced by insects to regulate their own growth.  They can be made synthetically and when present at the wrong time in an insect’s growth, they can cause it to grow abnormally or die.


Quarantine is the restriction of the importation of exotic plant and animals that could contain pests.  If an area is thought to contain exotic pests, the area is quarantined often requiring the destruction of crop in that quarantined area.  When quarantine fails 100’s of square kilometers must be sprayed to kill the pest and stop a major outbreak of the exotic pest.

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