Looking to the future, we must accept the premise that many kinds of pest insects must be suppressed. The only alternative is to accept lower standards of living, comfort, and health, according to Fr. Edward F. Knipling, USDA scientist for 41 years, now retired.
"The degree of damage by insects to the things that we need and value, which was acceptable several decades ago, is not necessarily acceptable today," he says. "Moreover, standards on insect cotrol considered satisfactory today will probable not be considered acceptable in the years ahead.
"The world's population is expected to vertually double by the year 2000. It is conservatively estimated that pests reduce the world's food production by 20 to 30 percent.
"The increasing numbers of people will need more food and other agricultural products. People will also expect maximum freedom from insect annoyance, or from threats to their health that certain kinds of insects cause."
Knipling, an entomoligist, has written a 659-page book on insect est control as a consultant for USDA's Science and Educaiton Administration, which has published it as Agricultural Handbook No. 512. Entitles "The Basic Principles of insect Populaton Suppression and Management," the book may be purchased through the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.,20402. The price is $10.
"We must remember that effective control of insects will probable become increasingly difficult in the years ahead," he says. "More land will have to go into cultivation or be used for livestock production. More space will be required for homes, industrial complexes, highways and other needs.
"This further disruption of the environment then already exists.
"This in turn will make managing certain major pests increasingly difficult because we will have less help from the natural biotic agents, which even in a natural balance often fall far short of the degree of control we desire but are, nevertheless, essential for successful control and management of most insect pests."
We must accept reality, Knipling says, and remind ourselves that the issue is not if insects must be controlled but rather how.
The publication concentrates on "the fundamental principles of insect control, with particular emphasis on how these principles eventually might be applied in the suppression and continusous management of total population of major insect pests, even though certain techniques are still in the early stages of development.
"This is in contrast with the emphasis on repeatedly controlling limited segments of pest populations as practiced in the past 100 years.
"Much emphasis will also be placed on developing procedures that can be directed against the target pest and thus avoid the adverse impact on nontarget organisms that often occurs with resent systems of control. Thus, we hope to preserve the quality of the environment and also gain maximum benefit from natural control agents."
The many advantages of insecticidal chemicals and the untold benefits that have and will continue to accrue from their use must not be disregarded, Knipling says. "The benefits of chemical insecticides the world over can be measured in terms of millions of lives saved, hundreds of millions of lives saved, hundreds of millions of illnesses prevented, and enough additional food production to alleviate the malnutrition or starvation of a billion people.
"We cannot afford to abandon the judicious use of chemical insecticides, despite their limitations, until suitable alternative methods are developed."
To effectively manage pest populations in an ecosystem a well orgainzed and properly timed attack on the total population is necessary, Knipling says. a"This is in contrast to pest management practices that are applied to segments of insect populations that already have reached economic damage levels.
"Entomologists have underestimated . . . the rate of growth of pest populations in a few generations.
"We are becoming increasingly aware of the limitations and futility of the farm-to-farm system of insect pest control directed against only portions of the total pest population. Major pest problems will never be resolved in this way. This will continue to cause the usual damage year after year as they have in the past."
Pest control methods suggested by Kipling include biological agents, insect-resistant crop varieties, attractants and repellants, chemical sterilants, conventional insectivides, mating inhibitors, and other genetic techniques.