Beneficials provide best, free pest control

A field crops entomologist is encouraging farmers to incorporate beneficial insect habitats into their management plans.

Chris DiFonzo with Michigan State University tells Brownfield the best pest control comes from a thriving ecosystem.

“If we start to lose those free things out of the system, either growers have to pay more or the production becomes more limited,” she says.  “Every time you spray a pesticide, it costs—it costs money and it also wipes out that free biological control.”

She says removing tree lines and ditch banks around fields decreases insect populations.

“We know that that’s where a lot of ground beetles hang out and a lot of beneficial insects will overwinter,” she explains.  “There are good studies, especially in Europe and also in the U.S., to show that when you put those kind of edges or beetle banks as they’re called back into the system, you get more biological control.”

DiFonzo says light pollution, pesticide use, invasive species, and climate change have also caused some insect populations to decline.

“Climate change really is diminishing the range that some insects can live in,” she says.  “Some insects may do better under climate change—ticks aren’t insects, but ticks are certainly moving further north and moving in their range as it gets warmer, probably mosquitoes too.”

DiFonso will discuss the impact of disappearing insects as part of a session at the upcoming AgroExpo in St. Johns.

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