Tipping the system: the difficult transition from chemical towards natural pest control in agriculture


Abstract: Insecticides are used intensively for agricultural pest management, despite decades-long efforts to diminish pesticide dependency. Pest management can be characterized as a dynamic system with alternative states – a biocontrol-dependent state and a pesticide dependent state. A pesticide dependent state is characterized by a positive feedback between insecticide use, reduction of natural enemies, release of pests from top-down natural enemy control, and need for more insecticides. A biocontrol-dependent state is characterized by effective pest suppression by natural enemies, no or limited need to use insecticides, and limited disturbance of natural enemy populations. Each stable state is self-reinforcing due to positive feedback, and the transition from one state to the other could be characterized by “tipping points”: critical points in the management intensity where the system switches from one stable state to the other. More insight is needed on these pest control system dynamics, and the trajectory of pesticide dependency to biocontrol dependency. This will contribute to a better understanding under which set of conditions a coordinated effort between stakeholders has potential to “tip” the pest control system to an insecticide-independent state.

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