Proper pesticide use part of sustainability efforts

Wisconsin State Farmer

Agricultural fields can be attacked by insects, disease, and weeds. How can growers defend crops?

Vacation or weeding on a farm? Every US adult would need to take one week of vacation to weed at a farm without the use of herbicides to maintain today’s crop yields.

The most recent Sustainable, Secure Food blog explains how the safe use of pesticides can maintain crop yields, feed the world, and keep our food supply sustainable.

“’Pesticide’ is a very general, chemical term,” writes Timothy Durham. Durham is the program coordinator of agricultural sciences at Ferrum College, Ferrum, VA. Four categories target specific crop problems, much as different classes of medicine assist human health:

  • Insecticides fight insect pests
  • Herbicides fight weeds
  • Bactericides fight bacterial illness
  • Fungicides fight fungal illness

Without pesticides, our lives would be different. “To maintain today’s level of crop yields, each American would need to do backbreaking weeding for one week straight,” Durham explains. That sounds less appealing than a week’s vacation!

Durham points out another consideration: “We’d have to use more land to produce the same amount of food. The problem is, land is in short supply. Either it’s too hilly and not suited for farming, or it’s already been paved over and developed as a city. And we can’t use areas like rainforests, because they’re an important part of Earth’s ecosystem.”

“Pesticides are just one option in a pest management toolbox that farmers can rely on,” Durham says. “If you’re using pesticides in your home garden, always read the directions! Your use impacts the environment, too.”