For FAO, Integrated Pest Management is "the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and subsequent integration of appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and reduce or minimize risks to human health and the environment". In IPM, compatible - and preferably environmentally friendly - control methods are integrated and adapted to the agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions of each specific situation. The application of IPM has gradually increased as an approach to pest control over the last 40 years, and FAO and the international community have adopted it as a way of achieving more sustainable agriculture with less damage to the environment and biodiversity. The main objective of reducing the over-reliance on pesticides has been demonstrated in many systems.
The concept of Area-wide Integrated Pest Management (AW-IPM) is defined as IPM applied against an entire pest population within a delimited geographic area. Area-wide intervention strategies require planning and ecological understanding, longer-term commitment, and coordinated implementation by farmers and all other stakeholders.
Spatial distribution. The spatial distribution of the pest population has to be considered not only in surrounding cultivated areas, but also in non-cultivated areas. The approach also involves considering the temporal distribution of the pest in order to determine the periods when it is most susceptible to preventive, rather than remedial, interventions. When producers of a given area or region organize themselves to take area-wide integrated action, and target all individuals of the pest population, often fewer inputs are required and the control is usually more effective. An area-wide approach is central to the effective integration of a number of modern pest control methods, such as mating disruption and the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT).
In 1998 FAO and the IAEA sponsored the First International Conference on "Area-Wide Control of Insect Pests, Integrating the Sterile Insect and Related Nuclear and other Techniques" in Penang, Malaysia. As a follow-up, a second FAO/IAEA international conference was held from 9-13 May 2005 in Vienna. Attended by some 300 delegates from 86 countries and nine international organizations, the conference covered the area-wide approach in a very broad sense, including the development and integration of many technologies, such as the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) and related genetic, molecular and other techniques.
Therefore the main theme of the second conference was to review lessons learned in implementation of operational AW-IPM programmes, addressing both the technical and managerial components. Managers, scientists and decision-makers debated a number of relevant questions during eight discussion sessions and four discussion panels. Topics included factors limiting application of the area-wide approach, assuring effective management in complex programmes, the role of area-wide SIT application in eliminating outbreaks of invasive species, and opportunities for collaboration with the private sector. Most area-wide programmes have so far been carried out by government organizations, but in the long run this approach may not be sustainable. Continued expansion of the area-wide approach will require involvement of commercial enterprises, even if public funds continue to be used.
Modern biotechnology. The potential role of modern biotechnology, including transgenic crops and insects, in AW-IPM programmes was another topic debated. It is now possible to routinely introduce genes into the germ line of many pest species, and much of this development has been predicated on using sterile transgenic insects as one of the lowest risk strategies. However, as yet no transgenic strains of pest insects have been produced that could be used effectively in a programme that integrates SIT. It was concluded that a critical and informed case-by-case analysis of the possible advantages and disadvantages of using genetically modified or paratransgenic insects in future area-wide programmes is needed, together with the development of a framework that regulates their use.
The conference highlighted successful area-wide insect pest control programmes that integrate SIT, indicating that the Sterile Insect Technique is coming of age. SIT has been successfully used against screwworms, fruit flies, tsetse flies and moth pests. While SIT gained its reputation in insect eradication programmes, it is essential that the scientific community now recognize its potential as a part of IPM strategies for area-wide suppression, containment and prevention. The scientific underpinning of SIT programmes has broadened as new areas of science have developed - for example, improved mass rearing and quality control, data management, molecular biology, insect behaviour, aerial release systems, and modelling. The technology is being applied on all continents against additional target species, and the socio-economic impacts have confirmed its usefulness. The critical review and international networking facilitated by the latest conference will greatly help improve research and development, and application in the field.
For more on area-wide pest control, visit the website of the FAO/IAEA Insect pest control programme
Published July 2005