Alton N. Sparks, Jr., University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
Many tactics keep pest populations off-balance and avoids development of resistance to pesticides. Least-toxic effective methods are used before more toxic ones whenever possible. What are the categories of tactics and specific actions included in each?
Suppress pest problems by minimizing the conditions they need to live (water, shelter, food). Planting plants that are adapted to your growing conditions, planting them in the right place, giving proper attention to their water and nutritional needs and the like. Strong plants resist diseases, outgrow weeds and are less likely to succumb to insects.
Prevent pest access to the host or area, or, if the pests are already present, physically removing them by some means. For example, this could mean using barriers, traps, vacuuming, mowing or tillage, depending upon the pest and situation.
Use pest-resistant plant varieties developed by classical plant breeding. Recently, this category has been expanded to include genetically engineered pest resistance, such as Bt corn or potatoes. There are also special uses of genetic techniques on pests themselves, such a "sterile male" insect releases.
Use predators, parasites and diseases of pests in a targeted way to suppress pest populations. Use of microbial diseases of pests have become part of the chemical pesticide registration process and is treated below under Chemical methods. Use of predators and parasites as biocontrol for pests are handled in one or more of 3 ways;
- conservation and encouragement of naturally occurring biocontrol organisms by cultural techniques or at least avoidance of harming them
- augmentation of naturally occurring species by purchasing and releasing more of the same
- "classical" biological control in which new biocontrol species specific to pests are sought and introduced
There are many "chemicals" that are used in pest management situations, but not all chemicals are alike from the standpoint of their range of action, toxicity, or persistence in the environment. There will be more information on the classes of chemicals in the Learning to Use Tactics section, Activity Lessons from Labels.
Biorational chemicals are those that are less universally toxic and target a specific aspect of pest biology. An example might be diatomaceous earth used to scratch the surface of insects to dehydrate them, or microbial pesticides that affect only a specific group of insects.
There are some biorational chemical tactics that are hard to classify by toxicity or that are used together in innovative ways with other tactics. An example of this would be insect pheromones used together with sticky traps. Pheromones are the chemicals produced by insects to attract their mates, and so these substances are not toxic. But they can be used in large amounts to "confuse" the mating process or to attract insects to a trap. Other examples of such chemicals are repellants, attractants, and antifeeding agents.
Conventional pesticides currently refers to synthetically produced compounds that act as direct toxins (nerve poisons, stomach poisons, etc.) There are many new classes of chemicals being added to the older conventional pesticides
Regulatory control refers to the role played by government agencies in trying to stop the entry or spread of pests into an area or into the country via inspection, quarantine, destruction of infested material, and other methods.