Pest resistance is a real problem when using chemical pesticides. This is when the pest becomes used to a chemical and it builds up a tolerance to it, making the product ineffective. The chemical no longer controls or kills the pest.
Pesticide Stewardship gives an insight into why this occurs. They say it tends to happen when a grower repeatedly uses the same or similar pesticides that have the same mode of action.
A mode of action is the way in which a pesticide controls a pest. For example, several pesticides might use the same way of blocking enzyme production to kill pests. Although these products might seem to be different, they all use the same way of killing the pest.
The individual pests themselves do not become resistant. What happens is the population adapts. You might say this is evolution at work. Pests breed quickly. And when chemical-resistant pests breed, they pass their genetic makeup to their offspring. So, their offspring have a higher chance of being resistant to the chemical.
Slowing down pest resistance is a lesser-known advantage of biological control. Biocontrol is a natural form of pest control. Also known as bioprotectants, they are better for the environment and human health.
These natural products can help slow down pest resistance. Why is that? With biocontrol, you can switch out a single mode of action for several different ones. There are many forms of biocontrol. Additionally, biocontrol is often a natural enemy of a pest or disease. This makes it highly unlikely to develop resistance.
To control pests, growers can use a variety of biological control. Fungi, for example, are natural organisms. They can develop within pests and suffocate them. Natural oils can confuse pests and lead them away from crops. Beneficial insects like mites can attack pests. They can actively seek them out in difficult-to-reach places.
Each time a grower uses a different mode of action, the pest must develop a new way to counter the biocontrol. So, it slows, or stops, resistance developing. And, by choosing biological controls, growers prevent pest and diseases without using harsh chemicals. This makes biocontrol a more sustainable, long-term solution compared to chemical pesticides.
Interested in learning more about biocontrol and biopesticides?