Is the Use of Biological Control Agents in Agriculture Better Than Chemical Pesticides?
Biological and chemical control agents are among the two commonly used agents by farmers for monitoring and protecting plants from harmful diseases, pests, and many more viruses.
However, the use of chemical agents in the last few years has become low due to its various challenges, such as the elevated risk of chemicals entering food items and killing beneficial insects. The chemical agents also harm the human body while sprinkling them on the plants.
Due to such risk, the adoption of biocontrol agents in the agriculture sector has increased a lot.
Let’s understand why biocontrol agents in agriculture are more in demand in comparison to chemical control agents.
Biological Control Agents and Their Types
Biological control agents can be defined as those agents responsible for controlling the growth of pests or insects on the plant with the use of various other living organisms or biological agents.
Examples of Biological Control Agents are
- Insects such as ladybugs, beetles, dragonflies, wasps, and flies
- Pathogenic microorganisms are such as fungi, bacteria, and viruses
Biological control agents are also known as biocontrol agents in the agriculture sector. The primary use of these agents is to make agricultural fields pest-free and protect plants from getting destroyed.
The use of biocontrol agents is an effective way of enhancing crop yield by removing pests or insects from the agricultural farm.
Now, let us understand the biological control agent types.
The biological control agents have been divided into two main types: Inductive biocontrol (Augmentation) and Classical biocontrol (Importation).
- Inductive biocontrol (Augmentation):
In this, a high amount of the natural enemies of the targeted weeds are released into the agricultural environment to reduce the production of the weeds and protect plants.
- Classical biocontrol (Importation):
Classical biocontrol forms a prey-predator relationship that protects plants from harmful organisms. It is a natural way of controlling insects, pests, and other associated organisms harming plants. Commonly used classical biocontrol agents are baculovirus, moths, aphids, and parasitosis.
The shift toward sustainable, eco-friendly, and organically grown products is resulting in high demand for the biological control agent’s market.
According to the BIS Research report, the biological control agents market is expected to touch $11 billion by 2027 from a market value of $4.80 billion in 2021. The market is supposed to grow with a CAGR of 14.96% during the forecasted period of 2022–2027.
How is Biological Method Better Than Chemical Control Method?
The following are the reasons why biological control is much better compared to chemical control methods.
- Need for Extra Management
In the chemical method, farmers need to follow multiple steps such as pest scouting before determining whether to spray the chemical on a plant or not.
Also, it is important to decide on suitable insecticides or pesticides as per the targeted organisms and decide on the right time for spraying.
It is well clear that chemical agents need several steps to be managed and is also a laborious task. Biological control methods are much simpler to be managed and do not need to follow such time-consuming steps.
Biological control methods are less expensive, whereas chemical control methods require extra management and expenses due to several steps involved in chemical control methods.
- Low Pollutions
The biological control method is environmentally friendly and causes no pollution compared to the chemical control methods.
- Side Effects on Human Body
There are no such side effects associated with the use of biological control agents by the farmers.
Chemical control agents have several dangerous effects on the human body due to the spraying of chemicals on the plants.
There are various other benefits of using biological control agents over chemical agents. Also, the use of biological control agents can be possible in all seasons as they are cheaper compared to chemical pesticides and can be found in the market in any season.
As per Rakhi Tanwar (Principal Analyst of BIS Research), “The biological control agents’ market has massive market potential. With rising investments, focus on sustainability in agriculture, and no harmful effects on the health of the crops and consumers, the market is expected to increase tremendously during the forecast period 2022–2027.”
Challenges Associated with Biological Control Agents
Everything has some advantages and certain challenges associated with them. Similarly, biological control agents also have some challenges that must be overcome for better results.
Following are the challenges of biological control agents
- The biological control method requires more time and patience for the effective use of biological agents.
- Biological control agents lack accuracy and cannot reduce harmful pests completely.
Biological control agents are one of the promising alternative solutions for saving pests and harmful diseases affecting the growth of plants. However, there are still some challenges that need to be checked and worked upon.
Despite such challenges, the demand for biological control agents is set to increase more due to primary factors such as raising awareness about the harmful effects of chemical products and increasing demand for organic items.
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