Plant and animal pests and diseases have always been serious constraints in agricultural production, especially with small land holders whose management flexibilities are limited. These pests also have serious environmental implications since the chemical pesticides that have been used increasingly to try to manage them have serious environmental consequences. The residues of these chemicals can be harmful to humans and other creatures. They also damage natural enemies of the pests they are meant to control. Lastly, the continued use of pesticides stimulates genetic changes in the pests so that they become resistant to the chemicals, and new pesticides must be sought. All in all, it is to the advantage of both the agriculturalists and the environmentalists to develop and use pest management systems that minimize or even eliminate the need for chemical pesticides.
Integrated pest management (IPM) systems that combine the positive effects of control mechanisms such as biological control, cultural management, and host-plant resistance and that use chemicals only when absolutely necessary are increasingly being sought after. Science can provide many of the basic tools needed for successful management systems. The remarkably successful rice pest management program in Indonesia is an example of a system that combines agricultural and environmental objectives (Kenmore 1991, Wardhani 1992).
Several kinds of research are needed to underpin and support IPM programs. First, the research to provide control tactics or technologies should receive high priority. Increased host resistance developed through the genetic improvement programs just described is central to viable IPM systems. Research will also be needed to seek out natural enemies of the pests, so that they can be used in biological control programs such as the highly successful cassava mealbug control program in Africa (Neuenschwander 1990). Research should also be conducted on cultural means of pest management and on economic thresholds.
Sharply focused IPM-related socioeconomic research must also receive attention. Research to identify and eliminate policy constraints to IPM conceptualization and implementation must be pursued, an example being the pesticide subsidies that are all to common. Operations research involving the active participation of farmers should be included as the IPM systems are developed and tested in the field.
Pest management researchers should be willing to participate as partners with farmers, NGOs, extension services and the private sector as and when IPM programs are conceived and implemented. They should also be willing to provide scientific as the programs progress.
Virmani, SMM, et., Al. 1994. Stressed Ecosystems and Sustainable Agriculture. Science publisher: Lebanon USA