Understanding Pesticides: Do You Know the Toxicology Maxim?
“The dose makes the poison” maxim relies on the finding that all chemicals, even water and oxygen, can be toxic if too much is consumed or absorbed. For a basic understanding of toxicology and pesticides, a pesticide is any substance or technology that is used to kill, manage or repel pests. The management of pests is more important than we realize.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that annually between 20 to 40% of global crop production is lost to pests. Each year, plant diseases cost the global economy around $220 billion and invasive insects around $70 billion U.S. dollars.
A pest is any living thing, whether animal, plant or bacteria, that damages or interferes with human interests, including agriculture. Pests may harm crops and livestock that we rely upon for food. They may damage our garden and landscape plants, and structures, disrupt the ecological balance in natural areas and even spread human diseases. Scientists also suggest that the use of the term “pest” may be subjective, as an organism can be a pest in one setting but beneficial, domesticated, or acceptable in another.
Types of Pests
- Mites (these are creature-like insects)
- Rodents and scorpions
- Mammals (like javelina, wild boar, deer, squirrels, and other furry friends that can cause crop damage)
- Unwanted plants (that appear and interfere in crop areas, otherwise known as weeds)
Two types of pest control exist: preventative and curative. Preventative measures are used before the attack of the pest and curative measures are used to control the pest after they appear and during their initial attack. Spanning across preventative and curative measures are several methods of pest control.
- Mechanical/Physical: physical removal of pests, removal of weedy plants such as hand-hoeing, trapping pests, netting, using high- or low-temperature extremes to impact pests.
- Cultural: crop rotation, deep plowing, and clean cultivation, optimal use of fertilizers and water to encourage crop vigor and health, growing pest-resistant crop varieties, timely planting and harvesting to avert pest growth cycles.
- Chemical: appropriate and timely applications of safe and selective organic and synthetic chemicals applying only the appropriate and prescribed dose.
- Biological: several pests may be controlled to a certain degree by naturally occurring predators, parasites, and diseases. We may rely on beneficial organisms already in nature or may release them into the crop environment.
- Plant quarantine: control of movement, distribution and spread of pests and infested commodities by state and federal regulations.
All these preventative and curative methods of controlling pests are used by organic and conventional farmers and only prescribed doses are applied as agriculture is highly regulated in the use of these controls.