global briefs Flower Power Farms Test Low-Tech Pesticide Alternative

To make sure more beneficial bugs come to their crops to feed on pests, farmers

are planting flowers in

the middle of their fields. On a

farm near the town of

Buckingham, England, a crop of oilseed rape is planted amidst rows of wildflowers. It’s one of 14 sites in a study testing the wildflowers’ efficacy in attracting pest-eating bugs, and how well

they would perform in replacing toxic pesticides. The study also includes the use of

borders of wildflowers around each field, a technique farmers in the area have used for the past two decades to promote general biodiversity, though not specifically for pest control. Researchers Ben Woodcock and

Richard Pywell, of the UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology, write, “The crop protection ‘toolbox’ is becoming smaller and more vulnerable, so now is a good time to rethink our future crop protection strategies to consider the use of alternative pest control measures alongside conventional pesticides.” Pesticide use probably won’t

be eliminated completely, they say. However, by attracting pest-eating

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bugs—along with other techniques like breeding plants to better resist pests, using technology to better diagnose and forecast pest behavior and application systems that can apply tiny amounts of pesticide more precisely—pesticide use could be dramatically reduced. Harsh chemicals can then serve as a last line of defense, rather than the first thing farmers reach for.

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