Viewpoint: ‘Smart pesticide use’ — Here’s a way we can protect crops while preserving beneficial insects

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Credit: Équiterre
Credit: Équiterre

Currently, products are developed and marketed to kill pest insects immediately. This has become the goal of crop treatments, and the death of the insect is considered the proof that a treatment works. But the real goal of pesticide use isn’t to wipe out insects, it is just to protect crops to secure food production.

We have found that using just a fraction of the concentrations applied today stops insects feeding on crops. At these reduced concentrations, there would be a lot less insecticide leaching into the environment, so less harm to beneficial insects. This low dose is the equivalent of an anti-mosquito spray: it repels mosquitoes so they don’t bite you. Whether the mosquito is alive or not doesn’t matter, either way you have received protection.

Similarly, we don’t need to kill all pest insects in a crop: we just need to reduce the population enough to ensure that it causes no important economic damage.

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Farmers would benefit from these changes. They would spend less money on pesticides and improve crop production by keeping healthy pollinator insects about.

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