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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: August 2010

14 - Agroecology: contributions towards a renewed ecological foundation for pest management



The integrated pest management concept (IPM) arose in the early 1970s in response to concerns about impacts of pesticides on the environment. By providing an alternative to the strategy of unilateral intervention with chemicals, it was hoped that IPM would change the philosophy of crop protection to one that entailed a deeper understanding of insect and crop ecology, thus resulting in a strategy which relied on the use of several complementary tactics. It was envisioned that ecological theory should provide a basis for predicting how specific changes in production practices and inputs might affect pest problems. It was also thought that ecology could aid in the design of agricultural systems less vulnerable to pest outbreaks. In such systems pesticides would be used as occasional supplements to natural regulatory mechanisms. In fact, many authors wrote papers and reviews depicting the ecological basis of pest management (Southwood and Way, 1970; Price and Waldbauer, 1975; Pimentel and Goodman, 1978; Levins and Wilson, 1979). But despite all this early work, which provided much of the needed ecological foundations, most IPM programs deviated to become schemes of “intelligent pesticide management” and failed in putting ecologically based theory into practice.

Lewis et al. (1997) argue that the main reason why IPM science has been slow to provide the productive understanding that will assist farmers to move beyond the current production methods is that IPM strategies have long been dominated by quests for “magic bullet” products to control pest outbreaks.

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