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California Attempts Return to Historical Method of Pest Control

In the days before pesticides saturated our farm lands, natural methods of pest control had to be used. Predators were often introduced as a way to keep pests under control. The Huffington Post is reporting that California is undertaking this historical method by introducing 15 million wasp eggs to various neighborhoods to purge the light brown apple moth- an invasive species from Australia that feeds on nearly all fruit crops, ornamentals, and vegetables.

Aerial spraying of pesticides is the prominent method of pest control in the U.S., with an estimated one billion pounds of pesticides applied annually- despite mounting concerns over the environmental and health effects of these chemicals. A recent study showed that large tracts of monoculture have created the ideal environments for pest, but rather than treat the root cause, farmers have chosen to treat the symptom.

Miguel Altieri, an expert inagriculture and ecology at the University of California, Berkley, is hoping to see changes in the way agriculture is done in this country. Leading a grass-roots effort to spread interest in natural methods of pest control, Altieri has helped introduce the farmer-to-farmer program , which allows farmers to teach and learn from each other as they implement various strategies.

Altieri cautions farmers to not expect instant gratification, but assures that these methods will produce longer-lasting, sustainable benefits, like the return of pollinators and birds and increased soil fertility.

“Why do we always blame the pests? In order to have a pest, you have to have a system that is unhealthy,” said Altieri. “Monocultures are the worst systems you can have. They invite pests. But you can increase immunity through diversification.”

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