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What is Biological Control?

Meaning of Biological Control

Biological control is an area that portrays that all plant and animal species have natural enemies , which attack various life stages of their targets.

Among the natural enemies there are quite diverse groups, such as insects, viruses, fungi, bacteria, spiders, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

The term “ Biological control ” was first mentioned in 1919 by HS Smith and refers to the use of natural enemies in the control of insect pests in crops.

Then this term was used for all forms of alternative controls to chemicals, involving living organisms.

Biological Control Function

Biological control is a natural phenomenon , which consists of controlling the number of plants and animals by their natural or introduced enemies.

It can be useful for the control of pathogens , pests and “ weeds ”. For this, it implies the mechanism of reciprocal density, where one population is controlled by another population.

An insect pest is always controlled by another insect, which in turn is a predator of the insect pest and thus maintains the natural balance of the environment .

Where if one population increases simultaneously, the other will also increase.

Biological Controllers

Biological controllers can be defined in three ways:

  • Parasitoids: they are living beings that parasitize other beings making it impossible for them to reach the reproductive phase. The parasitoid spends a period of internal or external development in a single host, which at the end of the cycle kills it.
  • Predators: Throughout their life cycle or part of it, they are free-living organisms that actively seek out and kill their prey. They are generally larger than their prey and require more than one prey to complete their life cycle. Ex: hornets and hawks.
  • Pathogens: Pathogens are microscopic organisms that can multiply in the body of their host, which can cause infections and other complications.

Types of Biological Control

There are four types of biological control:

Artificial

In artificial biological control, artificial interference is used so that there is an increase in predators, parasites or pathogens, being the most active living beings in natural biological control , such as insects, fungi, viruses, bacteria, nematodes and mites.

Classic

In classical biological control  , introduction is made through the importation and colonization of predators or parasitoids, focusing on the control of exotic, occasionally native, pests.

The release is carried out with a small number of individuals sometimes on the spot, as a long-term control measure, since the population of natural enemies tends to increase over time and therefore only applies to specific cultures as semi-evergreen or evergreen.

Natural

It refers to the populations of natural enemies that occur naturally on the site, responsible for natural mortality in the agroecosystem and, consequently, for maintaining a balanced level of pests.

Applied

These are massive releases of predators or parasitoids, after large-scale creation in the laboratory.

This type of biological control is well accepted by the market, since it has a fast action type, very similar to that of conventional insecticides.

Biological Pest Control Programs

The demand for biological pest control programs has grown considerably in the world due to the new international guidelines for agricultural production to favor the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources, a basic measure for the Convention on Biodiversity .

International and national markets demand robust alternatives for chemical control (pesticides), and the use of natural enemies is a promising alternative.

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