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Pest management science often disregards farming system complexities


Communications Earth & Environment volume 4, Article number: 223 (2023

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Since the 1940s, pesticide-intensive crop protection has sustained food security but also caused pervasive impacts on biodiversity, environmental integrity and human health. Here, we employ a systematic literature review to structurally analyze pest management science in 65 developing countries. Within a corpus of 3,407 publications, we find that taxonomic coverage is skewed towards a subset of 48 herbivores. Simplified contexts are commonplace: 48% of studies are performed within laboratory confines. 80% treat management tactics in an isolated rather than integrated fashion. 83% consider no more than two out of 15 farming system variables. Limited attention is devoted to pest-pathogen or pest-pollinator interplay, trophic interactions across ecosystem compartments or natural pest regulation. By overlooking social strata, the sizable scientific progress on agroecological management translates into slow farm-level uptake. We argue that the scientific enterprise should integrate system complexity to chart sustainable trajectories for global agriculture and achieve transformative change on the ground.

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