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Low-dose chemical stimulation and pest resistance threaten global crop production

New publication by Evgenios Agathokleous, Christian Sonne, Giovanni Benelli, Edward J. Calabrese, Raul Narciso C. Guedes


Pesticide resistance increases and threatens crop production sustainability. Chemical contamination contributes to the development of pest resistance to pesticides, in part by causing stimulatory effects on pests at low sub-toxic doses and facilitating the spread of resistance genes. This article discusses hormesis and low-dose biological stimulation and their relevance to crop pest resistance. It highlights that a holistic approach is needed to tackle pest resistance to pesticides and reduce imbalance in accessing food and improving food security in accordance with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Among others, the effects of sub-toxic doses of pesticides should be considered when assessing the impact of synthetic and natural pesticides, while the promotion of alternative agronomical practices is needed to decrease the use of agrochemicals. Potential alternative solutions include camo-cropping, exogenous application of phytochemicals that are pest-suppressing or -repelling and/or attractive to carnivorous arthropods and other pest natural enemies, and nano-technological innovations. Moreover, to facilitate tackling of pesticide resistance in poorer countries, less technology-demanding and low-cost practices are needed. These include mixed cropping systems, diversification of cultures, use of ‘push-pull cropping’, incorporation of flower strips into cultivations, modification of microenvironment, and application of beneficial microorganisms and insects. However, there are still numerous open questions, and more research is needed to address the ecological and environmental effects of many of these potential solutions, with special reference to trophic webs.