Pesticides are used more in fields near organic farms, study reveals

Organic farming can lead to the use of more pesticides in neighboring fields, which in turn use conventional agriculture, according to a study published Thursday and conducted in California. However, this undesirable and involuntary effect can be counteracted by grouping the organic fields as closely as possible, highlights the study, published in the prestigious journal Science.

Ashley Larsen, lead author, insisted during a press conference that she did not want this work to be “reduced to a title“.”Organic farming is expected to grow in the future, so how can we ensure this does not cause collateral damage?“, he summarized to explain his approach.

A study of “about 14,000 plots

The environmental sciences researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her colleagues studied about 14,000 plots in Kern County, California, growing a wide variety of crops, including grapes, lemons, almonds, pistachios, tomatoes, potatoes, etc. The researchers took into account the maps of the fields studied, their organic or non-organic classification and data on pesticide use.

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They observed that organic farming was associated with slightly greater pesticide use in nearby conventional fields, but also with greater pesticide reduction in neighboring organic fields.

Our hypothesis (…) is that organic agriculture harbors a greater population of harmful insects, but also their natural enemies“Ashley Larsen explained. So, conventional fields”They have a smaller population of natural enemies, and when they see the insects When pests arrive, they increase the use of pesticides.“The researchers also observed that pesticide use in conventional fields decreased as their distance from organic fields increased.

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The “influence” of organic fields

It could be interesting to think about measures that encourage the grouping of fields that practice organic farming.“the researcher suggested. In a separate commentary article, also published in Science, Erik Lichtenberg of the University of Maryland noted that although researchers had shown that farmers’ pesticide decisions were influenced by the presence of organic fields, The mechanisms at work remained unclear.

The nature of the products grown, their resistance to insect pests and the personal practices of farmers can play a role. “That insects Pests are involved, but it is not clear where they come from or how they move.“he wrote, calling for more research on the topic.

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