A knowledge-based approach to designing control strategies for agricultural pests
- Agricultural Systems
- Chemical control of insect pests remains vital to agricultural productivity, but limited mechanistic understanding of the interactions between crop, pest and chemical control agent have restricted our capacity to respond to challenges such as the emergence of resistance and demands for tighter environmental regulation. Formulating effective control strategies that integrate chemical and non-chemical management for soil-dwelling pests is particularly problematic owing to the complexity of the soil-root-pest system and the variability that occurs between sites and between seasons. Here, we present a new concept, termed COMPASS, that integrates ecological knowledge on pest development and behaviour together with crop physiology and mechanistic understanding of chemical distribution and toxic action within the rhizosphere. The concept is tested using a two-dimensional systems model (COMPASS-Rootworm) that simulates root damage in maize from the corn rootworm Diabrotica spp. We evaluate COMPASS-Rootworm using 119 field trials that investigated the efficacy of insecticidal products and placement strategies at four sites in the USA over a period of ten years. Simulated root damage is consistent with measurements for 109 field trials. Moreover, we disentangle factors influencing root damage and pest control, including pest pressure, weather, insecticide distribution, and temporality between the emergence of crop roots and pests. The model can inform integrated pest management, optimize pest control strategies to reduce environmental burdens from pesticides, and improve the efficiency of insecticide development.