dominant means of controlling pests is not a durable solution. The failure to develop economically viable pesticides for some of the most damaging pests and the economic costs of continual pesticide application has also led to an interest in alternative approaches to crop protection.

Managing the pests inherent to agroecosystems is imperative to producing adequate supplies of food and fiber to meet current and future world needs. Effective, long-lasting, ecologically sound, and affordable pest management systems are essential to agricultural productivity and profitability. The committee concludes that agriculturalists must learn more about the biological and ecological processes of the crop-production environment in order to develop the management approaches and products that alone or in combination with carefully managed use of selective pesticides will provide novel and lasting solutions to pest problems.


The earliest known mention of using naturally occurring compounds to manage pests was in 1000 B.C. when Homer referred to the use of sulfur compounds. In the western hemisphere, early agriculturalists reduced the number of arthropod pests by treating infested plants with tobacco extracts and nicotine smoke. The list of naturally occurring substances used as pesticides expanded over time to include rotenone, soaps, fish oil, lime-sulfur, and copper-sulfate. A shift toward chemical controls coincided with the use of Paris green (an arsenic compound) in 1867 to control an outbreak of Colorado potato beetle in the United States and the fortuitous discovery of a fungicide mix (copper sulfate and hydrated lime) in 1882 in Bordeaux, France (Bottrell, 1979).

Early Biological Management of Arthropods

The use of beneficial organisms to manage pests also has a long history. The Chinese introduced colonies of ants into citrus groves to control caterpillars as early as 324 B.C. In 1752, Linnaeus wrote about the use of predatory arthropods to control arthropod pests on crops. An early insectary design in which caterpillars were placed in cages to attract beneficial arthropods was recommended by Thomas Hartig of Germany in 1827. In one of the first attempts at classical biological control, entomologist Asa Fitch suggested that toadflax, an exotic plant introduced to the United States from Europe, could be managed by importing the natural enemy of this weed from its native habitat. The colonization of the cabbage butterfly in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region and parts of the Midwest compelled Riley and Bignell to import a parasitoid (Apanteles glomeratus) in 1883 that eventually spread and successfully controlled the caterpillar pest throughout the United States (DeBach and Rosen, 1991).

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