Pesticides and Safe Alternatives

Trees, flowers, gardens and plants are a part of our everyday life. Trees provide shade, beauty and resources for paper product. Gardens, farm land and plants provide food and are also can be a source of beauty. However, trees, flowers, gardens and plants have a natural enemy – insects. Insects in the air and in the soil can be harmful to anything planted. In addition to insects, weeds, birds and other forces can be harmful to the health of plants and trees.

Scientist have developed ways to keep insects from destroying plants and trees through the use of pesticides. Pesticides act as a deterrent to anything that can be harmful to growing plants and trees, which enables them to stay healthy. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which is a worldwide agricultural agency of the United Nations, describes a pesticide as:

any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying or controlling any pest, including vectors of human or animal disease, unwanted species of plants or animals causing harm during or otherwise interfering with the production, processing, storage, transport or marketing of food, agricultural commodities, wood and wood products or animal feedstuffs, or substances which may be administered to animals for the control of insects, arachnids or other pests in or on their bodies. The term includes substances intended for use as a plant growth regulator, defoliant, desiccant or agent for thinning fruit or preventing the premature fall of fruit, and substances applied to crops either before or after harvest to protect the commodity from deterioration during storage and transport.”

While the use of pesticides have been an effective way to maintain the health of plants, trees and other garden items, they do have a downside. Pesticides can consist of a chemical substance or a biological agent, which can prove to be toxic to animals and humans. Because of the potential for harm through the use of pesticides, governments have strict regulations on pesticides. All pesticides used must be categorized by toxicity level, with pesticides within a lower level of toxicity only be available for use by homeowners and non-professionals.

However, due to the environmental concerns associated with the use of pesticides, alternatives to pesticides have been adopted by many people. These alternatives include changing cultivation methods, introducing biological pest controls, genetic engineering and other methods. Some of the more common methods used include growing multiple types of plants (called polyculture), rotating crops on a regular basis and even drawing pests to a set area with the use of trap crops. Another alternative that has been successful is introducing a natural predator into an area to help eliminate the pest.

Pesticides have been an effective method to deter pests from damaging plants and trees. However, there are some risks associated with using them. Farmers, homeowners and others with plants and trees need to determine whether pesticides or natural alternatives to pesticides would be the best solution to their pest problems. To help identify all the advantages and disadvantages of each method, we have listed a collection of resources on the subject: