IPMBest of Both Worlds

What does sex have to do with pest control? Interestingly, sex scents, called pheromones, can confuse pest mating patterns, allowing farmers to use less pesticides. It's part of a biological system of pest control.

IPM stands for integrated pest management—a contemporary farming approach that uses pesticides, biological control, and biotechnology to reduce crop damage. As farmers work in partnership with nature, they apply pesticides on crops selectively, ultimately using less.

IPM incorporates a variety of strategies—not just limited pesticide use—into pest management.

  • Crop rotation—for example, switching from soybeans to corn—helps limit pest buildup because insects lose their natural food source.
  • Farmers may use living organisms to help control pest diseases, or use pest predators (when "good" bugs eat "bad" bugs).
  • Growers may choose plant varieties that are more resistant to pests. Traditional plant breeding and genetic engineering can help crops develop their own natural resistance. See "Food Biotechnology: Nutrition Opportunity " later in this chapter.
  • Computers can help growers forecast disease and weather conditions. The more they know, the more prudent they can be with pesticides.
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