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Resistance Management

Resistance Management image – healthy corn crop in flower

People have been attempting to control crop pests since the beginning of agriculture.

Building on the methods that farmers have integrated into pest management practices on their farms, scientists continue to develop new ways to control insects, diseases, and weeds in crops.

Integrated Pest Management

IPM History

People have been attempting to control pests since the beginning of agriculture, as early as 8000 BC. The Chinese first demonstrated the value of knowledge in dealing with insects around 4700 BC when they mastered silkworm culture. As crop production methods improved and the scope of agriculture expanded in the 1800's and through to today, the need for pest control increased.

As new technologies created dramatic improvements in agriculture, scientists also began to assess the broader context in which pest management practices were applied. The emerging resistance of insects to certain chemicals and outbreaks of secondary pests that had not previously been problems were among the factors that engendered further improvements. Building on the ways that farmers had already integrated practices on their farms, scientists began to develop a more holistic, systems approach to pest management. By 1959, IPM concepts such as economic thresholds, economic levels and integrated control were introduced and, by 1962, the term Integrated Pest Management (IPM) was formalized.

What is IPM?

The more than 75 different definitions for IPM demonstrate a wide diversity of viewpoints on IPM and the evolution of IPM as a concept. Some recent definitions state that pesticides are only used as a last resort in IPM, but that is not true and would prevent the evaluation of all effective tools in an integrated approach. IPM definitions:

"Integrated pest management is a sustainable approach to managing pests by combining biological, physical, and chemical tools in a way that minimizes economic, health, and environmental risks." National Coalition on Integrated Pest Management. 1994.

"Integrated pest management, or IPM is a systematic approach to crop protection that uses increased information and improved decision-making paradigms to reduce purchased inputs and improve economic, social, and environmental conditions on the farm and in society. Moreover, the concept emphasizes the integration of pest suppression technologies that include biological, chemical, legal, and cultural controls.” Allen, W. A. and E. G. Rajotte. 1990. Annual Review of Entomology. 35: 379-97

"Integrated pest management (IPM) means 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 the risks to human health and the environment. IPM emphasizes the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms.” Food and Agriculture Organization International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides.

The Syngenta Commitment to IPM

Since pesticides are an important component of most successful IPM programs, the promotion of their safe and effective pesticide use is crucial. Lower dose and more selective pesticides, improved formulations, new application technologies, and education continue to revolutionize the chemical component of IPM programs and increase the number of pest management options available to growers.

The Active Ingredient...

  • Low risk, narrow-spectrum products are excellent components of IPM programs, combining low use rates, unique modes of action, and safety to (in the case of insecticides) beneficial insects.
  • Traditional herbicide products remain key conservation tools, because of their compatibility with erosion-preventing conservation tillage methods.

The Formulation...

  • Formulation is often a key driver in providing accurate rate control and resistance management, both critical components of successful IPM programs.
  • Syngenta continues to be a leader in formulating premixes (i.e. two or more active ingredients in one container), which prevent errors associated with mixing individual products and also contributes to pest resistance management through multiple modes of action.
  • Improved formulations like water dispersible granules greatly enhance product usage (e.g. handling and measuring).

The Application...

  • Syngenta pursues registrations that provides maximum flexibility in application choices, including those that promote IPM.
  • Our fungicides and insecticides are registered for in furrow and banded applications wherever possible, translating into lower application rates.
  • A growing line of seed treatment products deliver lower rates, targeted control, and drift avoidance, as well as resistance management and broad-spectrum control when more than one active ingredient is included in the product.

The Outreach and Education...

  • The Syngenta Customer Interaction Centre (1-87-SYNGENTA) consists of experts dedicated to providing information on Syngenta products and their correct use to our sales force, customers, and other parties, to ensure safe and effective product use integrated with other pest and crop management practices.
  • The Syngenta Canada website provides a broad range of agricultural resources and crop production information that allows growers to better integrate their activities with IPM.

Pest Resistance

Resistance is a natural biological response to repeated use of the same control technology. As with weeds, resistance can also occur with insects and is not unique to biotechnology-derived plants.

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), is a naturally occurring bacterium that is found in soil, and produces a toxin that can work as an insecticide. Bt has been widely used as an insecticide for farmers, organic and conventional alike, since the 1930’s. In recent years, plants have been developed to produce a Bt protein, which allows the plant itself to resist certain insect pests, which can reduce the need for a farmer to spray their crop with an insecticide.

Bt corn hybrids have been commercially available in Canada since 1997 and have become a valuable tool in controlling key pests, such as the European corn borer and corn rootworm. Scientists across North America, in both the public and private sectors, agree that these two pests could develop resistance to the Bt proteins under conditions of continued use.

Stewardship Plans

In an effort to prevent resistant insect populations in plants that have built-in pesticide genes, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) requires that each Bt corn registrant implement an insect resistance management (IRM) strategy with farmers.

These IRM plans require a refuge strategy, which involves planting a portion of the field with Bt corn plants, while maintaining another part of the field with non-Bt corn (a "refuge").This promotes the survival of susceptible insect populations, who mate with resistant individuals in the insect population and delay the development of a resistant population. This strategy has been endorsed by leading scientists to reduce the risk of insect populations developing a resistance to Bt corn.

At Syngenta, we work to educate corn growers regarding rootworm control strategies and trait stewardship, including effective agronomic and insect-resistance management practices. These practices include rotating crops, planting refuges as required, and rotating or combining multiple modes of action against the target pest.

Learn more about refuge.

Weed Resistance

Crops developed using technology – from herbicide-resistant traits in the plant to pesticides applied to the field – are helping farmers around the world improve productivity, secure yields, produce higher quality crops and reduce the environmental footprint of modern agriculture. However, like all weed management tools, they must be managed appropriately in order to maintain the effectiveness of these tools.

Weeds depend on routine to survive. Herbicide tolerant crops grown in rotation without other weed control strategies increases the potential for herbicide-resistant weeds to develop. As a result, the herbicides used to control these weeds may become ineffective. Strategies are needed to reduce the likelihood of developing resistance.

Why farmers care about resistance management

Herbicides offer farmers a cost-efficient and cost-effective way to control weeds. However, if weed species develop resistance, these herbicides can quickly lose their effectiveness. For farmers, losing weed control tools can result in crop losses and financial burdens as alternative weed control solutions may not be available.

CropLife Canada has produced a best management practices guide that provides strategies for managing herbicide tolerant volunteers in crops. Read more about weed management strategies.