How to Effectively Control Pests in Your Crops

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Suppression and prevention are usually the goals in outdoor pest situations, but eradication may also be possible for certain indoor pests. Eradication is more common in enclosed environments, where pests are more easily controlled. Contact Pest Control Garland TX now!

Pests are more than just a nuisance; they can cause significant health and property damage. The best pest control is always prevention – keeping the environment clean and sanitary, and regular inspections of the premises to detect and intercept problems before they escalate.

Even after the most careful sanitation and maintenance efforts, some buildings may still be susceptible to pest infestations. The term pest refers to any organism in large enough numbers to affect a building’s occupants, cause damage, or disturb operations. Pests can include insects, rodents, birds, or other vertebrates. Rodents can gnaw through wires and other materials, causing fire hazards; bird droppings are acidic and eat through many building materials; and mosquitoes can transmit diseases such as malaria and yellow fever.

To prevent pest infestations, remove food, water, shelter and hiding places for the pests. Keep trash cans tightly closed and regularly emptied, sanitize storage areas to reduce moisture levels, and eliminate overgrowth of plants around the foundation of a home or business. Regularly sweeping floors and wiping down counters will also discourage many pests.

Clutter and debris such as wood piles can provide nesting or hiding spots for many pests, and should be removed from the landscape near houses. Sealing cracks and crevices is another good preventive measure. Regular interior and exterior inspections will help to identify problem areas, like gaps in doors and windows, loose siding or roof shingles, or utility lines that can be sealed or patched.

Threshold-based decision making is important when addressing pests. A few cockroaches in the kitchen may not warrant action, but a colony should be treated right away. It’s also a good idea to know what pest control methods are available, so that when the time comes, you can make an informed choice about how to proceed with your control strategy.


Preventive methods are the first line of defense against pests. They include planting only pest-free seeds or transplants, weed management, irrigation scheduling to avoid situations conducive to disease development, and sanitation procedures that eliminate carrier organisms. Sanitation also includes cleaning tillage and harvesting equipment between fields or operations, eliminating alternative pest hosts or sites, and implementing sanitation standards at food-handling locations to reduce access to food and shelter for pests.

Monitoring and proper identification of pests through surveys or scouting programs, including trapping where appropriate, should be conducted regularly. These data should form the basis for crop rotation selection, economic thresholds and suppression actions. In the case of weed pests, soil testing and foliar analyses may be helpful in determining the need for control.

Some pests have a “zero threshold” and cannot be allowed to be present in an environment due to the severe damage or health hazards they cause. Eradication is the goal in these cases.

Pests can be controlled by introducing natural enemies that will attack them or using biological methods to alter the insects in the field. Examples of enemies are parasites, predators, and pathogens. Biological controls often take advantage of the natural host/prey relationship between the pest and its enemy. Pheromones and juvenile hormones are other biological pest control tools. A simple way to add natural pest control to your grove is to incorporate nematodes into the soil. These microscopic worms can eat through the root systems of grubs, flea beetles, and other pests that damage citrus plants. Just be sure to use the right species, as some nematodes are harmful and can destroy trees. Other beneficial nematodes, like the roach-eating genus Steinernema carpocapsae, are also available as sprays to target other pests such as gnats and fungus.


In this type of pest control, the goal is to reduce the population of a pest to zero. This may be achieved through direct action against the pest, such as poisoning it with chemicals or trapping it in physical traps. It may also be achieved by modifying the environment so that it becomes inhospitable or unattractive to the pests. This can be accomplished by obstructive landscaping, planting crops that are detested by the pests, or even creating a diversion element like a scrap wood pile that diverts pests away from important crop areas.

The word eradicate, which can be used as an synonym for exterminate or extirpate, originally meant to pull something up by the roots. It is derived from the Latin verb eradicare, which also gives us words like radical and radish. While the goal of eradication is to destroy or remove a pest, it can also be used to describe efforts to eliminate diseases in humans and animals.

Eradication is a much more ambitious task than suppression or control. The term has been applied to such elusive endeavors as eliminating Guinea worm disease, which has declined from 3.5 million cases per year in 1986 to just 12 worldwide this year, and eradicating polio, which continues to generate only a few wild (not vaccine-derived) cases each year.

There are many eradication techniques for pests, including the use of parasitoids and predators to limit densities of potential pest insects. This is a more natural approach to pest control, but it may take longer than using chemical controls. For example, natural enemies are not as sensitive to the types of insecticides that are commonly used in modern agriculture, such as systemic insecticides and those that must be ingested to have a toxic effect.

Mechanical or Physical Controls

A variety of physical or mechanical controls can be used to reduce pest populations or limit their damage. These include monitoring, scouting, picking, and the use of traps and other devices that injure or kill pests. Weather conditions, especially temperature and day length, affect pests directly by limiting their growth and development or indirectly by altering the conditions on which they depend. The availability of host plants or other organisms on which a pest feeds, the presence of parasitic organisms that injure or kill the pest, and pheromones emitted by the pest that attract predators or other natural enemies also can influence pest population size.

Changing cultural practices can also reduce the number of pests attacking cultivated plants. These changes might involve irrigation practices (e.g., reducing watering to discourage weeds) or crop varieties (e.g., choosing species that are resistant to insect attack).

Chemical control measures can be helpful for managing pests when other methods have failed or cannot be used. However, the use of chemicals should always be based on a thorough evaluation of their hazards to people and the environment. It is important to carefully read the product label and follow proper application techniques to minimize risks.

Eradication is rarely the goal in outdoor pest situations, but it can be possible with certain invasive insects in enclosed areas such as greenhouses, and in operating rooms or other sterile sections of health care, food processing, or agricultural facilities. Regulatory control targets pests that are a threat to human health or that cause severe economic damage. These pests are generally subject to strict regulation and may require quarantine or eradication. The action thresholds for these regulated pests are set by Federal and State agencies.

Biological Controls

Biological controls are living organisms such as predators, parasites, or pathogens that reduce pest populations to levels that prevent economic injury. Examples of biological control include insects that parasitize or prey on crop pests (e.g., the aphid-eating Aphidius species), nematodes that feed on or kill pest grubs and microbes that infect and destroy pest weeds. These natural enemies are usually effective, economical and non-toxic, but they often require more time to produce results than chemical controls.

Unlike chemical pesticides, most natural enemies occur naturally in the environment and help keep nature in balance. To increase the number of these organisms, some farmers use augmentation techniques that introduce them into the field. Purchased from commercial suppliers, these organisms are released in order to suppress pest populations as a supplement to other control methods. In greenhouses, for example, aphid-eating wasps are a common biocontrol agent.

Some biocontrol agents produce semiochemicals, message-bearing chemicals used to communicate with pests. For instance, the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis produces a series of endotoxins, crystalline proteins that penetrate the insect’s cell membrane and ultimately cause its death. This toxin is extracted and added to some commercially available products for use in biological control.

Other biocontrol strategies involve the conservation of natural enemies and manipulation of field habitat to increase their population and effectiveness. Planting diversity, improved soil quality, and production practices that allow natural enemies to thrive are important tools in this approach. The goal is to increase the diversity of organisms that prey on or parasitize crop pests, as well as weeds, to lower overall pest numbers. This is a more holistic, ecological method that may be used in conjunction with other pest management tactics.