The classical definition of Plant Protection relates to protecting plants that are useful to or cultivated by humans. The range of potential pests is tremendous and includes both micro-and-macro organisms. Plant protection has direct impact on crop yield and farmers’ profitability.
In our reality, in which human population is constantly growing, arable lands decrease while temperatures rise, pests develop resistance and the ecological balance is disrupted, sustainable plant protection poses a formidable challenge.
Plant protection through sustainable agriculture is still a developing field but already now the conclusion has been reached that pests and useful insect populations must be managed and controlled rather than automatically exterminated. The change in approach comes from recognizing the multiple risks and damage from exterminating methods, including residual chemical toxins in food, increased pest resistance while harming their natural enemies, and harm to the entire food chain and ecological balance.
Management and control of pests and useful insects is based on scientific methods integrating a range of tactics designed to ensure protection of agricultural crops and keeping damage to crops from accumulating to economic damage, while minimizing risks to humans and the environment.
Plant Protection Sciences engage in identifying the pest, studying the potential damage and the conditions that can intensify or mitigate it. It is also concerned with developing tools to reduce the damage through a wide range of measures that can be divided into four main approaches:
1. Physical prevention of pests from reaching the crop by means of obstacles such as fences, nets, repellents, deterring environmental conditions, trap plants, light/sound reflecting materials or devices, traps and scarecrows.
2. Preventing pests from settling and establishing a population through means such as changes in plant surface or changes in chemical composition of the plant by fertilization and organic soil amendments.
3. Controlling of pests population by using chemical or biological pesticides, parasitoids and natural enemies.
4. Preventing reproduction through various methods including pheromones, sterilized males and microbial mating-disrupting.
Plant Protection takes a holistic approach to all populations of organisms in the environment, some of which are desirable for humans (such as commercial crops), others are undesirable (pests) and others yet are transparent, or neutral to farmers (neither pests nor crops). These populations maintain mutual interactions and balances both within their species as well as between them on all trophic levels of the ecosystems and habitats on the ground, water and air.
Sustainable agriculture aspires to increase as much as possible the yields and benefit for humans with a minimal disruption of these biodiverse and balanced ecosystems, within the understanding that natural balance works in service of humans seeking to protect commercial crops. This comprehensive approach encompasses actions taken both in and out of the field within the same geographic space. Sustainable agriculture-based Plant Protection is a year-round process that is based on us understanding these balances and ecosystems and reigning them in for our own use- wisely.