Pesticide Registration Toolkit

Categories of alternatives

Alternatives to highly hazardous pesticides are all pest management options that are compatible with integrated pest management (IPM) or integrated vector management (IVM), including agro-ecological practices that enhance the natural ability of an ecosystem to prevent, suppress or mitigate pest problems.

The main categories of alternatives are:

  • Cultural practices: agroecologically-based measures, including crop, farm and landscape management measures, aimed at enhancing natural enemies’ population and preventing pest outbreaks. These measures focus on the preservation of ecosystem services such as natural pest control and soil health. At the field level, they include general crop husbandry practices, intercropping, trap crops, push and pull practices, windbreaks, banker plants, mulching, soil cover, crop rotation, fertilization, and field sanitation. At the landscape level, measures include landscape planning, as well as management of riparian areas and natural habitats to augment the population of beneficial insects.

    More information on agro-ecology can be found in the FAO Agroecology Knowledge Hub.
  • Physical methods: mechanical interventions such as pruning, uprooting, application of thermal, electrical, light or acoustic treatments.
  • Host-resistance and crop breeding (e.g. choice of crop variety): use of improved varieties with better pest-resistance traits.
  • Biological control with macro-organisms, including predators and parasitoids: various strategies of biological control may be chosen, depending on the pest, the natural enemy and the local situation.
    • Classical biological control occurs when exotic natural enemies are established after importation and release.
    • Augmentation (or inundative) biocontrol is the result of (often) repeated releases of large numbers of natural enemies.
    • In conservation biocontrol, existing natural enemy populations indirectly boosted by making the environment more favorable for them.

See also the FAO/IPPC Guidelines for the export, shipment, import and release of biological control agents,

  • Biopesticides. Farmers can complement agroecological man­agement practices with a range of biopesticides for pest control, de­pending on the actual pest situation and the availability of effective solutions. Biopesticides are substances derived from nature that may be formulated and applied in a manner similar to a conventional chemical pesticide, and which are normally used for short-term pest control.

Biopesticides include:

    • Semiochemicals: Substances or mixtures of substances emitted by plants, animals, and other organisms that evoke a behavioural or physiological response in other individuals of the same or other species. Semiochemicals are used for mass trapping, mating disruption, repulsion, anti-feeding effect, push-and-pull or attract-and-kill techniques. Different types of semiochemicals include, allelochemicals, pheromones and straight-chained lepidopteran pheromones (SCLPs).
    • Microorganisms (protozoan, fungus, bacterium, virus, or other microscopic self-replicating biotic entity): A microorganism and any associated metabolites, to which the effects of pest control are attributed. A microorganism active substance may contain viable and/or non-viable microorganisms. It can contain relevant metabolites/toxins produced during cell proliferation (growth), material from the growth medium, provided none of these components have been intentionally altered.
    • Botanicals: A botanical substance that consists of one or more components found in plants and obtained by subjecting plants or parts of plants of the same species to a process such as pressing, milling, crushing, distillation and/or extractions. The process may include further concentration, purification and/or blending, provided that the chemical nature of the components is not intentionally modified or altered by chemical and/or microbial processes.

More information can be found in the FAO Guidelines for the registration of microbial, botanical and semiochemical pest control agents.

  • Other synthetic, low risk pesticides: pesticides that are, as far as possible or desirable, target-specific, that degrade into innocuous constituent parts or metabolites after use and are of low risk to humans and the environment.

Very often, several pest management measures will need to be combined to achieve an effective and sustainable IPM or IVM approach. Optimising the integration of these measures is central to IPM, and may need to be adapted on a dynamic basis. FAO provides more information about integrated pesticide management (IPM) while WHO provides a framework for integrated vector management (IVM)