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Biological control refers the use or encouragement of natural enemies to reduce and control insect pest population (Waterhouse, D. F., 1992). Biological control can be parasites, predators and pathogens to suppress population of the insect pest in agriculture. Therefore, biological control is important to keep the pests in check.
Biological control classified into four forms, namely; classical biological control, natural biological control, inundative biological controls and augmentation of biological control.
Classical biological control is the control of the exotic species by the exotic natural enemies (Townsend, 2008). Classical biological control is the importation of biological control agents to invade the pest area. This form of biological control involve in the search, selection and introduction of natural enemies from the area of origin of the pest. Example in 1977, classical biological control apply in the outbreak of diamond back moth (DBM), Plutella xylostella(Linnaeus) in Cameron Highlands by importing hymenopterous parasites such as Diadegma semiclausum and Diadromus colaris to keep the DBM population low (Ooi, et al., 1979). To control weed, Larva of Metrogaleruca beetle feed on Cordia leaves to control the weed problem in Malaysia’s coconut plantations ( Ooi, P. A. C., 2000)
Natural biological controls involve in the introduction of native natural enemies to the invasive insect pests. This method by conserve the natural enemies by keep the natural food chain in balance. The use of pesticides causes the population of natural enemies diminishing. This causes high frequency of pest outbreak and resistance towards pesticides. This is due to the farmer do not aware of natural enemies until attended Farmer Field Schools (FFSs). This proved that the farmer stop using chemical pesticides shows rice stemborers pest kept at low populations by natural enemies (Ooi, P. C. A. & Shepard, B. S., 1994)
In the case of augmentation biological control is the method to introduce natural enemies during the time when the population of insect pest building up. Reared natural enemies are released into the field in augmentation. Encouraging black ant, Dolichoderus thoracicus (Smith) to manage cocoa mirid pest (Khoo, K. C. & Chung, G. F., 1989) and cocoa pod borer (Liew, V. K., et al., 1999) by establishing nests of the ants in cocoa plants.
As for inundation biological control, the use of this method to produce large numbers of natural enemies and released them repeatedly on the crops where the pest exists (Chong, K. K., et al., 1991) and its often involves in the use of insect pathogens like fungi and viruses. This method is used when the conservation and importation of biological control is not effective. The periodic released of Trichogrammatoidea bactrae fumata (Nagaraja) to control the cocoa pod borer were used inundation method (Lim, G. T. & Chong, T. C., 1987).
History of biological control in Malaysia
Before the introduction of DDT pesticides during World War II, nonpesticide methods were implemented to control agricultural pest in Malaysia. The methods of controlling pest in the olden days of agricultural were physical and cultural methods. Physical method such as controlling termite continuing damage on rubber trees by digging 2.5-3 feet and 10 feet away from attacked tree (Ooi, P. A. C., et al., 1981). Another method also create unfavorable environment for pests to habitat by removing breeding ground, healthy seedling and resistant variety. This method has been done by Wood (1971) whereby the planting cover crops able to eliminate Rhinoceros beetles breeding sites and reduced beetle infestation in coconut plantation.
The success of implementing chemical pesticides as a pest control agent caused severe outbreak of pest and this has been proven Brown Plant Hopper, Nilaparvata lugens (BPH) outbreak in Tanjung Karang Irrigation Scheme Malaysia in 1977 caused hopper burn after several pray of chemical insecticides (Ooi, P. A. C., 1977) which initially this insect was minor herbivores which mainly served as a role of food for the predators. The success of introducing chemical pesticides promoted diamond back moth, Plutella xylostella (L.) (DBM) resistance to pesticides (Ankersmit, M., 1953; Henderson, G. W., 1957) caused severe outbreak in Cameron Highland, Malaysia due to excessive use of chemical pesticides (Carson, R., 1962).
After knowing the consequences of use of chemical pesticides caused pest outbreak, the only way to control pest outbreak by biological control agents. In the past success of using biological control agents, the pest can be controlled by introducing suitable natural enemies to have effective pest management. The exotic pests outbreak can be also suppressed by import the exotic natural enemies as a biological control strategy (Ooi, P. A. C., et al., 1979). Besides, research on the development of pest resistant crop variety was also developed to fight against pest. However, above all the past successes of using biological control agents in Malaysia were still under studied and the failures of some biological methods are still attempting in Malaysia.
In current status, there are many efforts of finding for more methods to be able to replace or minimize chemical pesticide usage to reduce pest damage. The most promising and effective result through Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and this method has adopted in many agricultural pest population control throughout the world (Chin, H., et al., 1991; Syed, A. R., et al., 1997; & Mah, S. Y., et al., 2001). Research is ongoing to improve the effectiveness of biological agents such as compare the local and exotic biological control agents in the effectiveness in pest control. Example local Cotesia plutellae and exotic natural enemies Diadegma semiclausum control on DBM (Ooi, P. A. C., et al., 1979). Another current successful biological method by mulching and intercropping to reduce 85% winged aphid on planting bed of chili (Mohamad Roff M. N. & Ong, C. A., 1991).
How does biological control contribute to sustainable agriculture?:
Why is biological control important in Malaysia?
To control pest
The preoccupation with chemical control resulted in many reports of insecticide resistance in DBM (Ankersmit, G. W., 1953; and Henderson, M., 1957). This was found that more concentration of chemical pesticides proportional to the increase of insecticide resistance in DBM.
How does it affect agriculture sustainability?
Biological control method able to secure the sustainability of agricultural production this is because chemical pesticides is the main cause of severe outbreaks of BPH, Nilaparvata lugens due to the disruption of natural biological control (Kenmore, P. E., et al., 1984). Insecticides killed both pests and natural enemies and often pest resurgence higher population than before. As reported by Ooi, P. A. C. (1986), the insecticide treatment resulting in fewer predators in the rice field as compared to field that without any insecticides treatment in Sekinchan, Malaysia. This contributed to higher ratio of BPH to predator in sprayed areas.
Many of the successful IPM programs are due to the solid foundation contributed by biological control (Lenne, 2000). Biological control agents are relatively inexpensive and able to control over large area compared to control by chemical pesticide which only control the given area treated (Hunter, D. G., 2005). Moreover, indigenous natural enemy population will increase as no application of insecticides (Lim, et al., 1978). The natural enemies are free and helpful in suppress pest compared to chemical pesticides. This shows that chemical pesticides are not sustainable and relatively expensive.
How do we promote biological control?
It is important to promote biological control for the farmer and stop the use of chemical pesticides method in pest management. With this, some of the action should be done to implement biological control method.
The farmer should involve in biological control and initiate the important of biological control in pest management (Ooi, P. A. C., 2005). Farmers would not stop using chemical insecticides if they do not understand what biological control is. Educate the farmers about ecology in pest management program to ensure a sustainable and successful program.
Ecological approach can be initiated through classical biological method to control the population of DBM by importing some parasitoids (Ooi, P. A. C. & Lim, G. S., 1989). This can effectively reduce the use and spend of money on chemical insecticides for the farmer to control the DBM.
Besides, government should ban the use of insecticides. Outbreaks were reduced as the government banned 56 insecticides from the rice field (Ooi, P. A. C., 2005). The reiterate outbreak of N. lugens in Indonesia was due to the extensive use of insecticides regarding to full support by government in subsidizing pesticides (Wardhani, M. A., 1992). The local farmer experienced harder to eliminate pest each time application of pesticides. A strong policy should be done by the government to ensure no illegal selling of hazardous chemical pesticides to the farmers.
Encouraging IPM farmers to continue research on DBM is critical to the realization and understands more of the potential of a biological control agent (Ooi, P. A. C., et al., 2001). The better understandings of non-chemical pesticide methods have helped farmers to think the right steps in preventing outbreaks.
Another way we can promote biological control is by making pests breeding area hazardous. Pest problem was successful controlled by indigenous disease, Rhabdionvirus oryctes (Huger) to control Rhinocerus beetles infestation (Ooi, P. A. C., et al., 1979). With this idea, the virus infected beetles are quarantine in the breeding site such as rotten trunk. During mating season, the Rhinocerus beetles will gather at the breeding ground. The healthy Rhinocerus beetles will be infected by the virus and eventually the population of Rhinocerus beetles will be suppressed.
Singh (1976) suggested that the importation of plant should be quarantine and the seeds should be cleaned to prevent the exotic pest invent into local agricultural system.
Yahaya, et al. (1995) were recommended the removal of crop residue to control tobacco pest.
What kind of research is required to support biological control of insect pests?
The farmers should continue to study and experiment even after FFS program. According to the report by Warshiyah, et al. (1999), the study of nonpesticide method to control the white stem borer is continued by the farmers in Kalensari even after FFS program and Ooi (1998 & 2000) had followed up farmers in these studies to ensure the farmers practicing IPM after FFS. This confirms that farmers are able to carry out experiments and develop innovative nonpesticide methods of controlling pests (Chambers, et al., 1989)
Biological control agents able to keep the pathogen population below an acceptable threshold level or under the barrier of infection of pathogen (Hunter, D. G., 2005). Biological control of plant pathogens such as fluorescent pseudomonads bacteria successfully control fungal root pathogens Ralstonia solanacearum caused of blood disease in banana in Indonesia (Subandiyah, S., et al., 2001)
What areas of modern science can encourage biological control in Malaysia?
Adverse weather and migration of insects have been responsible for the development of some outbreaks, the most common cause of outbreak of native pests in Malaysia is indiscriminate use of insecticides (CITE)
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