Better Understanding of Beneficial Insects Vital for Sustainable Agriculture


by N. Selvam*

Pesticide use is rampant in Malaysian farms to the extent that almost all beneficial insects are wiped off from the field. A visit to several farms and further discussion with Malaysian farmers revealed the sordid condition of Malaysian farms. Farmers here resort to pesticide to get rid of pest problems.

Due to farmers’ ignorance on the significance of beneficial insects, they spray pesticides in their field which leads to the perishing of beneficial insects together with the pests.

Pesticide is not a solution for pest problems in any farm. All insects are farmers’ friend. Of the total insects in the farm, only 25% can be categorized as pests. The rest are beneficial insects. Gone are the days when farmers use pest repellents solution to repel the pest, thus maintaining ecosystem which in turn increases their harvest. Farmers are now enticed by the aggressive promotion of pesticide companies to the extent that it is ingrained in their minds that pesticide are real solution to pest problems.

Although the intention of using pesticides is to kill the pest, the same pesticides also kill beneficial insects. Such practices lead to soil and plant diseases and decreases yield.

Beneficial insects also known as predatory insects feed on pests. Beneficial insects such as spider, ladybird, beetle, green lacewings keep the pests in control by capturing and eating them. When pesticides are sprayed, these beneficial insects perish first followed by pests.

It is essential for farmers to enhance their knowledge on the significance of insects in their farms. Continuous spraying of pesticides builds pesticide resistance in the pests. The insects that survived the pesticide attack pass on their genetic traits to their offspring. Next generation of the same pests carry this reistant gene which means they cannot be killed by applying the same pesticide. Hence more toxic pesticide needs to be used to kill them.

Thus the continuous input of toxic chemicals in the form of pesticides and insecticides on the farms increases the toxic residues in the crops. It also encourages the flourishing of pests through the enhancement of pest immunity.

No pollination will occur in a farm that is devoid of honeybees. Without pollination yield will be reduced.

We have myriad of ways to increase the number of beneficial insects. Plants with yellow flowers attract beneficial insects to the farm.

The presence of pests is vital for the survival of beneficial insects. Farmers should bear in their mind that these beneficial insects feed on these pests.

In chemical free farming pest are not killed with pesticides but repelled with pest repellents. Such practice weakens the pests and eventually these pests become easy prey for beneficial insects. Hence, farmers should learn to prepare their own pest repellents and use them to control pests. Pamphlets on natural pest control methods are available at Consumers Association of Penang. The pamphlets teaches you on how to make insect repellants.

Incessant spraying of pesticides leads to the depletion of beneficial organisms in the soil. This makes the soil barren and lead to the survival of detrimental organisms. Pesticide residues are channelled into the river or absorbed into the soil causing groundwater contamination. The air is filled with toxic pesticides causing numerous health problems for human beings and other living things.

Switching to chemical-free farming and learning natural farming methods not only increases yield but also reduces farmers’ expenditure on pesticides.

We have the utmost responsibility of leaving behind toxic-free world for our children to live in. For that to happen, we need to learn and spread proper, toxic-free, integrated pest management. Let the beneficial insects thrive, for our yield to increase and our life to prosper.

*N. Selvam is an integrated pest management expert from India. He works as an Agricultural Officer with the Soil Testing Lab of the Commissioner of Agriculture in Tamilnadu.