How Farmers Fight Pests to Provide Safe and Nutritious Food for a Growing Population
Who doesn’t love biting into a crisp apple, or a big bowl of cereal? Well as it turns out, pests love digging into our favorite foods just as much as we do! Every day, farmers across the globe are faced with the challenge of sustainably tackling a wide variety of pests in order to protect the world’s food supply. To do so, they rely on innovative and sustainable ways to keep crops healthy and protect them from pests, diseases, and weeds.
There is a common misconception that farmers simply apply chemicals to their crops to combat pests, but that is not quite the case. Farmers are using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) – the practice of using a wide variety of tools and techniques to manage pests, including chemicals. There are three critical steps to IPM: prevention of pest build-up, observation of the crop to monitor pest levels and intervention where control methods are needed to manage pests.
Hanlie on Sustainable Farming
Hanlie Pretorius is a farmer in South Africa, with farming born into her blood. The daughter of a dairy farmer, she and her son run their own farm planting everything from maize to broccoli. Her greatest thrill is seeing the journey a seed undertakes, sprouting into a full crop, which can then be harvested. For Hanlie, sustainability is all about having a good, healthy farm. Good soil equals good produce. She follows IPM practices on her farm and believes that “biotechnology [also] has a role to play in sustainable farming. I do see biotechnology as part of the future, as part of your IPM practices.”
One of the greatest challenges that Hanlie faces is that of the fall army worm (FAW). Originally from South America, this pest has made its way to Africa and Asia where it has been devasting maize crops. A single moth can lay hundreds of eggs, which give way to hungry larvae capable of decimating a field quickly. As such, Hanlie must be hyper vigilant in monitoring her field. To combat the pest, Hanlie uses treated certified seeds that are resistant to FAW.
Ultimately, Hanlie’s goal is to leave a good, healthy sustainable farm to whoever comes after her, whether it’s her son or grandchildren.
Jake Leguee is a large-scale farmer in Saskatchewan, Canada. Part of Jake’s IPM is approach is crop rotation. “I’ve always felt that rotation was the first step in managing pests. If we can grow a different crop year over year on the same piece of land versus growing the same one over and over again, pests can adapt to it. If you put a canola crop on a field five years in a row, weeds will build up over time. You’ll have the same trouble with insects, and disease. When you start growing the same crop over and over again spores will build up in the soil. That’s when we run the risk of more serious diseases. ”
Jake also uses a variety of canola seeds to test new varieties to ensure his farm is making progress year after year. However, his biggest pest challenge on the farm is fusarium head blight. Find out how he is tackling this disease:
Paul Temple is a third-generation farmer in Yorkshire UK. For Paul, his approach focuses on scouting, constantly looking at crops to ensure quality and monitor for early signs of pests. Paul also faces off against one of the U.K.’s most notorious weeds. “Black grass is probably a U.K. farmer’s number one challenge. One plant has hundreds of seeds in it, so if you didn’t do anything to control it, this field would become unproductive because of black-grass.”
Protecting our crops is not simply using one practice to combat pests. Effective pest management requires using multiple practices in tandem to protect crops against the myriad of threats they face. Every day, across the globe, farmers are using these practices to protect our global food supply and ensure that pests are the ones going hungry!
Meet some of our other Crop Protectors here.