Scientists develop ecological engineering to control pests

October 5th, 2009 - 3:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Oct 5 (IANS) A pest management expert is relying on helpful plants and ‘good’ insects to protect rice in South East Asia, naturally.
“We are developing a new approach for pest control called ‘ecological engineering’,” said Geoff Gurr, professor of applied ecology at the Charles Sturt University (CSU).

“Unlike genetic engineering which many consumers are uneasy about, ecological engineering involves introducing carefully-chosen plant diversity onto farms,” he added.

“For example, we have introduced sesame to be planted around rice fields and sesame flowers provide nectar that is fed upon by beneficial insects.”

“This has multiple benefits: farmers have an additional crop in sesame seeds, and during the growing season the sesame acts as a ‘nursery’ for predators and parasites of the pests.”

“Rice farms can then harbour large numbers of ‘good’ insects so when pests arrive they are more likely to be eaten before they breed and damage crops,” he added.

Gurr is working with an international team to develop new methods for insect control that minimise insecticide use.

“As these resistant insects can migrate hundreds of kilometres between countries, the threat to rice is extremely widespread.”

“It is now so serious that the Asia Development Bank (ADB) has made a multi-million dollar investment in finding solutions to this problem for rice farmers in the region,” he said.

Gurr has been researching ‘clean and green’ pest control methods for over 15 years, working with crops as diverse as rice, grapevines, potatoes and lucerne.

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