Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a sustainable approach to pest control that combines the use of prevention, avoidance, monitoring and suppression strategies to maintain pest populations below economically-damaging levels. IPM can also minimise pest resistance and harmful effects of pest control on human health and environmental resources. It includes monitoring techniques, such as pest scouting, degree-day modelling and weather forecasting. These help to target suppression strategies (using precision techniques) and avoid routine preventive treatments. High-level IPM suppression systems include effective agro-chemicals and cost-effective biological and cultural controls, as well as the lowest pesticide levels needed for the cropping system. A previous LIFE project, MEDAPHON, developed a soil biological monitoring tool for continuous, automatic remote monitoring of soil microarthropods. The EDAPHOLOG system was a novel, online, in-situ monitoring system consisting of opto-electronic probes, radio/internet data loggers and a central server. EDAPHOLOG probes installed in the soil allow the remote sensing of soil microarthropod activities, and real-time data analysis via the EDAPHOWEB server application.
The INSECTLIFE project planned to further develop the EDAPHOLOG pest management tool, by enabling the system to detect pests and beneficial insects living in above-ground biotypes. The project aimed to assemble the different CSALOMON pheromone traps used to monitor certain pest species and EDAPHOLOG sensors into a new construction. This would have the advantage of allowing detection of pest emergence and population changes in an immediate and automatic way. As the pheromone baits are pest-specific, EDAPHOLOG probe sensors inserted into CSALOMON traps would detect only the targeted pest. Moreover, this automatic counting technique will provide much more accurate data for the growers than traditional manual counting methods. Specific objectives included: manufacture of a prototype and testing it under field conditions; measure the substantial reduction of pesticides loads as a result of the use of the system; provide insect population dynamics and pest forecasting by using local meteorological data measurements and forecasts; and demonstrate the usefulness and environmental benefits in field trials in four pilot areas.
The INSECTLIFE project developed an innovative monitoring system for pest management that detects pests and beneficial insects living above-ground. The project partners successfully assembled the different CSALOMON pheromone traps used for specific pest species, and combined them with sensors based on the EDAPHOLOG monitoring system, into a new pest monitoring tool. The project team manufactured a prototype of this system and tested it under field conditions. In total, five types of probes and the corresponding sensors were designed and their accuracy was tested. Pheromone traps are a widely-used tool for detecting and monitoring pests in IPM systems. They are relatively cheap, easy to apply, do not need a power supply (therefore can be installed anywhere in a field or orchard), and are virtually pest-specific (no taxonomic expertise is needed). Insect response to pheromone is often limited to 3-4 hours within a day, which enables improved species-specific counting efficiency, since these periods can be monitored automatically.
The INSECTLIFE model greatly facilitates the use of pheromone traps, since the most limiting cost factors in pest monitoring are regular checks and manual counting of catches. The automatic counting technique provides accurate data for set time periods (e.g. daily) for the growers, which are currently unavailable through traditional manual counting. Therefore, the novel system greatly facilitates pest trapping as a basis for decision-making in crop protection, resulting in more precise, as well as more environment-friendly, crop protection.
The innovative tool promotes the use of environmentally-friendly integrated pest management (IPM) methodologies. It does this by: (i) monitoring pests faster and more precisely; and (ii) monitoring in a more cost-effective way. By applying IPM, pesticide loads can be decreased by as much as 30-50%. The coordinating beneficiary, the Hungarian Centre for Agricultural Research, found that manual checking in the plantations (orchards, arable lands) can be radically decreased, for example, up to 1-2 weeks between manual checks. Compared to the daily checks this result improves not only the budgeting of IPM (less fuel consumption and working time), but also helps to spread IPM technologies across agricultural sectors.
IPM systems can become more resource-efficient and more economical. Improved pest control will enable food production to take place with a lower level of agricultural inputs (e.g. pesticides). Food products themselves will also be cleaner and contain less pesticide residues, due to the more efficient plant protection actions supported by the monitoring system. Since greener agricultural products can command higher prices on the market, this can help develop local economic and employment opportunities.
The project itself provided direct employment (35 full-time, part-time or temporary jobs), and directly involved stakeholders (e.g. farmers, policymakers) in consultations at different levels. The project team contacted 1 000 farmers and pest management experts to promote the prototype technology and question them about their practices.
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).