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Destruction of nature and the rampant use of pesticides are the main drivers behind a rapid worldwide loss of bees and other pollinator species, an international panel of experts reported Monday. Shifts in land use to mono-crops, expanded grazing for livestock, and the widespread use of chemical fertilizers have also contributed significantly to their collapse, according to a global index of the causes and effects of pollinator decline.

For people everywhere, dwindling pollinator populations has potentially devastating consequences. Bees, butterflies, wasps, beetles, bats, flies and hummingbirds that distribute pollen are vital for the reproduction of more than three-quarters of food crops and flowering plants, including coffee, rapeseed and most fruits.

“What happens to pollinators could have huge knock-on effects for humanity,” said Lynn Dicks, a professor in Cambridge’s Department of Zoology and lead author of a study in Nature Ecology & Evolution. “These small creatures play central roles in the world’s ecosystems, including many that humans and other animals rely on for nutrition,” she added in a statement. 

“If they go, we may be in serious trouble.” 

The world has seen a three-fold increase in pollinator-dependent food production – valued at nearly $600 billion annually – over the last 50 years, according to a major UN report from 2016 to which Dicks contributed.

To get an up-to-date overview of pollinator status and the risks associated with their decline, Dicks worked with 20 scientists and indigenous representatives from around the world.

The causes and impacts of decline varied across regions.

Mass die-offs due to disease and so-called colony collapse disorder in industrial beehives and other “managed pollinators” ranked as a high risk in North America, where they play a key role in apple and almond production.

In Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America – regions where poorer rural populations rely on wild-growing foods – the impact of pollinator decline on wild plants and fruits poses a serious risk.

Latin America was viewed as the region with the most to lose. 

Insect-pollinated crops such as cashews, soybean, coffee and cocoa are essential to the region’s food supply and international trade. 

Indigenous populations also depend heavily on pollinated plants, with some pollinator species such as hummingbirds embedded in oral culture and history.

“This study highlights just how much we still don’t know about pollinator decline and the impacts on human societies, particularly in parts of the developing world,” said co-author Tom Breeze, Ecological Economics Research Fellow at the University of Reading. 

In China and India – increasingly reliant on fruit and vegetable crops that need pollinators – the loss of natural sources means it must sometimes be done by hand.

“We are in the midst of a species extinction crisis, but for many people that is intangible,” she added. “Perhaps pollinators are the bellwether of mass extinction.”

Another potential driver of pollinator decline that is likely to get worse is climate change, the study noted.

(Cover image via CFP)

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at nature@cgtn.com.)Source(s): AFP

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Singapore: New accreditation scheme underway for pesticide-free vegetables

Work is being done on a new accreditation program to certify farms in Singapore that meet the national guidelines of producing pesticide-free and sustainably grown vegetables. This new program – to be drawn up by the Singapore Accreditation Council (SAC), which ESG oversees, together with the Singapore Food Agency – will ensure that independent certification bodies can competently assess and recognize clean and green farms.

In March of this year, guidelines to ensure produce from local vegetable farms are grown sustainably & free from pesticides were launched. They are known as the Singapore Standard (SS) 661: Specification for Clean and Green Urban Farms and contain criteria that urban farms have to meet in terms of minimizing contaminants in the food production process, as well as sustainable practices on resource and waste management.

ESG’s director-general of quality and excellence, Choy Sauw Kook: “You will also know that local farmers have implemented management systems to optimize the use of resources, such as water and electricity, in the farming process. With this information in hand, consumers know that locally-produced vegetables are grown without chemical pesticides and responsibly.”

This is where the accreditation program comes in to provide ‘an additional layer of checks’. “The accreditation program that the SAC is developing will ensure that conformity assessment bodies are qualified to assess farms’ compliance with the clean and green standard. This is how quality and standards build trust among consumers,” Ms. Choy told channelnewsasia.com.

Publication date: Wed 29 Sep 2021

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Why an integrated approach is best

By Bill KerrAugust 26, 2021 at 10:30 am

Farmers are finding more and more natural enemies to keep tomato leaf miners in check instead of resorting solely to chemicals, says Bill Kerr.

Why an integrated approach is best
These cherry tomatoes were planted long after the other plants in the tunnel, and so ripened much later. Despite this, no Tuta absoluta attacked them, proving the effectiveness of biological pest control. Photo: Bill Kerr

I once used a biological product to control Tuta absoluta (tomato leaf miner) in my own tomato crop. Unfortunately, the manufacturer ceased production of the product. But because I was using my crop solely for breeding purposes, I decided to stop spraying for the pest.

Last year, the plants suffered a fair amount of damage; this year, there was much less. I planted my first tunnel as soon as the frost was past and the final tunnel started maturing in March. There is very little damage to these tomatoes, despite the fact that I have never sprayed them or used traps.

I planted a quarter of the tunnel to a cherry tomato variety much later than the rest of the crop. This is just starting to set fruit, whereas the rest have been ripe for some time; yet there is no sign of the pest or larvae on this batch.

Taking a closer look at the plants, I recently found a number of Macrolophus spp in various stages of development, as well as the occasional Nesidiocoris tenuis. Both are mirid bugs that prey on T. absoluta and other pests. Macrolophus is now gaining control of T. absoluta in my tunnel.

Slight plant damage
More than 20 European countries are now using Macrolophus for pest control, and these are sold to tomato farmers.

When their prey is not available in sufficient numbers, Macrolophus spp can survive by feeding on the tomato plants themselves, and there are records of flower drop and other damage when their populations are very high. Nonetheless, they prefer insect eggs and first-instar larvae.

Generally, the small amount of potential damage is worth the protection provided by the bugs. They also feed on whitefly, aphids and thrips.

We still have much to learn about the local Macrolophus bugs. They may, for example, be better adapted to our conditions than those imported from the Netherlands. Whatever the case, they are apparently easy to rear.

Another group of beneficial insects is Trichogramma spp parasitoids. These are minute wasps that parasitise the eggs of the tomato leaf miner and other pests. There are many in the genus, with some being more specific in what they control and others having a wider range of prey.

In time, more natural enemies will make their presence felt. It is reported that some of the imported natural predators are not well adapted to high temperatures. As the inside of my tunnels can get particularly hot, this might indicate that our local bugs are better adapted.

Another approach is to set pheromone traps, which are available from suppliers of local biological products. These are an effective tool for lowering tomato leaf miner populations.

A combined approach
Control of this pest is not a matter of a one-size-fits-all approach and there is still a steep learning curve ahead. What is certain is that, eventually, we shall have to go over to integrated pest management with a combination of beneficial insects and insecticides that do not harm the natural enemies of T. absoluta.

This approach also means that tomato farmers have to carry out far more scouting and study to truly get the better of this highly destructive pest.

Bill Kerr is a vegetable specialist and breeder of a range of vegetables.

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News

New study shows decreasing effectiveness of fungicides to control the devastating Black Sigatoka disease of banana

Published onMay 19, 2021

The fungus Pseudocercospora fijiensis causes black leaf streak disease or Black Sigatoka of banana, which is the most damaging leaf disease of bananas worldwide. An analysis of 592 P. fijensis isolates from seven banana-producing countries on three continents shows how P. fijensis is evolving to insensitivity to azole fungicides due to the heavy use of pesticides.

The results of the study have been published in Pest Management Science and underscore the need to stop this vicious circle by developing alternative disease control methods and new banana varieties.

Black leaf streak disease is the most important banana disease worldwide. Cavendish bananas represent more than 50% of the global production – and dominate the export (95%) – but are very susceptible to this disease. In most countries, banana production relies on continual intensive disease control, usually at weekly intervals, throughout the year. It demonstrates the fragility of global banana production and its overall unsustainability. Azole fungicides are the cornerstone for fungal disease control in plants, animals and humans.

Nieuwe studie bevestigt dat verwoestende bananenziekte Black Sigatoka wereldwijd resistent raakt tegen pesticiden 2.jpg

First comprehensive analysis of reduced sensitivity

This study is the first comprehensive analysis of reduced sensitivity to these fungicides in banana production. In their study, researchers of Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and their collaborators, analyzed 592 P. fijensis isolates from seven countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Southeast Asia for the sensitivity to three azole fungicides.

In addition, they sequenced the target gene – Pfcyp51 – in 266 isolates, to determine every mutation and analyzed the overall genomes of 155 isolates to study geographical clustering. All identified mutations could be associated with reduced sensitivity to the fungicides. This trend results in a vicious circle of even more fungicide applications in banana cultivation. Taken together, these alarming data call for a new view on sustainable banana production. For the benefit of the manifold producers and domestic and international consumers.

Read the study:

More articles

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Online resources available from BCPC:

·        PESTICIDE MANUAL

·        UK PESTICIDE GUIDE

·        MANUAL OF BIOCONTROL AGENTS

·        GM / BIOTECH CROPS MANUAL (Free Access)

·        IDENTIPEST (Free Access)

·        ·      

   


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ALL NEW, ALL FREE  from BCPC
The Compendium of Pesticide Common Names

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Fall armyworms eating rice leaves in a flooded field. Entomologists seek emergency-use exemption to help rice growers in ‘epic’ battle against armyworms.

Mary Hightower, U of A System Division of Agriculture | Jul 22, 2021SUGGESTED EVENT

Events Page - Farm Progress Show 2021

Farm Progress ShowAug 31, 2021 to Sep 02, 2021

University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture entomologists are seeking an emergency exemption to allow for the use of Intrepid to help control armyworms that threaten the state’s 1.24 million acres of rice. 

“This is the biggest outbreak of fall armyworm situation that I’ve ever seen in my career,” Gus Lorenz, extension entomologist for the Division of Agriculture, said Wednesday. “They’re in pastures, rice, soybeans, grain sorghum. It’s epic.”https://d4100051ff2b64e2ac90e81feaf8c9c5.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Lorenz said the Section 18 request to enable use of Intrepid should be submitted to the Arkansas State Plant Board by Friday.

Intrepid is a growth regulator that’s approved for use in just about every other row crop but is not labeled for use in rice.

“This armyworm thing started about three to four weeks ago,” he said. “It’s continued to build from that time. It’s from the Boot heel of Missouri down to Louisiana.”

Eaten to the ground

Gus Lorenz51326207237_6519faedbd_o.png

Sweep net full of armyworms. Taken July 21, 2021.Lorenz said he received a call from a producer in “south Arkansas, that they’d eaten his bermudagrass pasture to the ground. It was a 30- to 40-acre pasture. And he wasn’t even calling about the pasture. He was calling about his rice crop. He said his rice was being eaten to the ground.”

“Fall armyworm is a particularly voracious caterpillar,” said Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist for the Division of Agriculture. “They have a tendency to surprise us because adults lay very large egg masses but the earliest instar larvae eat very little. It’s not until they get older and start to spread out that they consume most of the food in their life cycle.

“This is why we go from zero to TREAT seemingly overnight,” Hardke said.

Why a Section 18?

51327145063_f633537f6a_o.jpgExtension entomologist Nick Bateman examines a rice field in Jefferson County on July 21, 2021 for fall armyworms. (U of A System Kurt Beaty)

Typically, armyworms can be managed well using pyrethroids, but Lorenz said “when this outbreak first started, we got reports out of Texas and Louisiana that they weren’t getting control. We’re getting failures.”

Lorenz said he and colleagues ran some quick tests, spraying this year’s armyworms with pyrethroids “and we got 48% control.”

In cattle-heavy parts of the state producers use another insect growth regulator called Dimilin to manage armyworms, but in row crop country, “they just don’t carry it. It’s just not available,” Lorenz said.

Fellow extension entomologist Nick Bateman said, “another problem with using Dimilin is the pre-harvest interval. The pre-harvest interval on Dimilin is 80 days which will lead to major harvest issues.”

“We’re limited on the options in control for rice,” he said. “It’s not just a problem of row rice. We are also seeing them in flooded rice, all through the field. They are eating rice all the way down to the waterline.”

Lorenz said rice growers in California sought and received a Section 18 exemptions over the last three years. “We felt like that was our best option.”

Arkansas farmers who managed to replant after the floods and heavy rain in June have young, tender plants that are highly attractive to armyworms.

“Those crops are extremely susceptible to damage from armyworms,” Lorenz said.

What’s next

“My concern is that if we get another generation of them, the next wave could be unbelievable,” he said.

The first generation of armyworms matured into moths in Texas and Louisiana and flew northward. Now that they’re in Arkansas, “We’re making our own generation, which is what makes it so dangerous,” Lorenz said.

There’s also a chance that, depending on the environment, “the population could collapse,” he said. “There are some natural controls out there. When you get a big buildup a lot of things can happen. There are a lot of naturally occurring pathogens that can help control them.”

Some agents in southwest Arkansas found armyworms that had fallen victim to a naturally occurring virus. Lorenz is hoping that virus may provide another option for control in the future.

Arkansas is the nation’s leading rice producer. 

Use of product names does not imply endorsement.Source: University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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Ceylon Daily News

Plans to produce powerful natural herbicide using invasive species

Saturday, June 19, 2021 – 01:16Print EditionLocal

The Environment Ministry plans to produce a powerful natural herbicide using several invasive species that are to be removed from the environment immediately in support of the President’s organic farming programme.

The purpose of this is to prevent the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides along with the ban on the use of chemical fertilizers and to prevent farmers from getting into trouble due to the lack of a suitable herbicide for weed control.

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera instructed Ministry officials on Thursday to be prepared to make a special contribution to the promotion of organic farming under the Ministry.

The discussion was attended by Ministry Secretary Dr. Anil Jasinghe and heads of the Central Environmental Authority, Geological Survey and Mines Bureau, Technical Services Company and many other external institutions.ht

“The decision taken by the President to stop the use of chemical fertilizers for cultivation and to introduce organic farming instead is a historic decision. Other Ministries cannot remain silent, leaving these matters to the Ministry of Agriculture alone. Therefore, as the Ministry of Environment, we have a great responsibility to intervene in this matter,” said Minister Amaraweera.

“Farmers are currently demanding chemical fertilizers. The decision taken by the President for organic farming will be implemented from this Maha season. Therefore, there is a need to provide chemical fertilizers during the Yala season this year. It was also proposed to set up a medium scale factory for this purpose in the Hambantota District where these invasive plants are in abundance,” the Minister said.

“Pesticides and herbicides along with chemical fertilizers have also been banned, making it difficult for farmers as well as cultivators to get sufficient manpower in the tea and rubber industry as well as in paddy cultivation. There is a possibility of producing a successful herbicide using these invasive plants as a solution. It is also 100% chemical free and eco-friendly. Arrangements have been made to hold further discussions in this regard at the Divisional Secretariat in Hambantota today (19). These invasive plants are species recommended by the Ministry of Environment for immediate destruction,” Minister Amaraweera said.

The Minister also said that steps will be taken to launch a number of small and medium scale projects for the

production of organic fertilizer required for agriculture in the Hambantota District during the Maha season this year.

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Pollen-sized technology protects bees from deadly insecticides

Cornell University

27-May-2021 7:05 PM EDT, by Cornell Universityfavorite_border

Newswise: Pollen-sized technology protects bees from deadly insecticides

Nathan Reid

A Beemmunity employee, Abraham McCauley, applies a pollen patty containing microsponges to a hive as part of colony trials.

Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. – A Cornell University-developed technology provides beekeepers, consumers and farmers with an antidote for deadly pesticides, which kill wild bees and cause beekeepers to lose around a third of their hives every year on average.

An early version of the technology ­– which detoxified a widely-used group of insecticides called organophosphates – is described in a new study, “Pollen-Inspired Enzymatic Microparticles to Reduce Organophosphate Toxicity in Managed Pollinators,” published in Nature Food. The antidote delivery method has now been adapted to effectively protect bees from all insecticides, and has inspired a new company, Beemmunity, based in New York state. 

Studies show that wax and pollen in 98% of hives in the U.S. are contaminated with an average of six pesticides, which also lower a bee’s immunity to devastating varroa mites and pathogens. At the same time, pollinators provide vital services by helping to fertilize crops that lead to production of a third of the food we consume, according to the paper.

“We have a solution whereby beekeepers can feed their bees our microparticle products in pollen patties or in a sugar syrup, and it allows them to detoxify the hive of any pesticides that they might find,” said James Webb, a co-author of the paper and CEO of Beemmunity.

First author Jing Chen is a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of senior author Minglin Ma, associate professor in the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). Scott McArt, assistant professor of entomology in CALS, is also a co-author.

The paper focuses on organophosphate-based insecticides, which account for about a third of the insecticides on the market. A recent worldwide meta-analysis of in-hive pesticide residue studies found that, under current use patterns, five insecticides posed substantial risks to bees, two of which were organophosphates, McArt said. 

The researchers developed a uniform pollen-sized microparticle filled with enzymes that detoxify organophosphate insecticides before they are absorbed and harm the bee. The particle’s protective casing allows the enzymes to move past the bee’s crop (stomach), which is acidic and breaks down enzymes.

Microparticles can be mixed with pollen patties or sugar water, and once ingested, the safe-guarded enzymes pass through the acidic crop to the midgut, where digestion occurs and where toxins and nutrients are absorbed. There, the enzymes can act to break down and detoxify the organophosphates.

After a series of in vitro experiments, the researchers tested the system on live bees in the lab. They fed a pod of bees malathion, an organophosphate pesticide, in contaminated pollen and also fed them the microparticles with enzyme. A control group was simultaneously fed the toxic pollen, without the enzyme-filled microparticles.

Bees that were fed the microparticles with a high dose of the enzyme had a 100% survival rate after exposure to malathion. Meanwhile, unprotected control bees died in a matter of days.

Beemmunity takes the concept a step further, where instead of filling the microparticles with enzymes that break down an insecticide, the particles have a shell made with insect proteins and are filled with a special absorptive oil, creating a kind of micro-sponge. Many insecticides, including widely-used neonicotinoids, are designed to target insect proteins, so the microparticle shell draws in the insecticide where it is sequestered inert within the casing. Eventually, the bees simply defecate the sequestered toxin.

The company is running colony-scale trials this summer on 240 hives in New Jersey and plans to publicly launch its products starting in February 2022. Products include microparticle sponges in a dry sugar medium that can be added to pollen patties or sugar water, and consumer bee feeders in development.

“This is a low-cost, scalable solution which we hope will be a first step to address the insecticide toxicity issue and contribute to the protection of managed pollinators,” Ma said.

Jin-Kim Montclare, a researcher at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, is a co-author.

The technology is licensed through Cornell’s Center for Technology Licensing (CTL). Ma and McArt are advisors for Beemmunity.

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

For additional information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.

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New screening method could lead to microbe-based replacements for chemical pesticides

by Tokyo University of Science

pesticides
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Plants have evolved unique immunity mechanisms that they can activate upon detecting the presence of a pathogen. Interestingly, the presence of some nonpathogenic microorganisms can also prompt a plant to activate its systemic immunity mechanisms, and some studies have shown that pretreating agricultural crops with such “immunity-activating” nonpathogenic microorganisms can leave the crops better prepared to fight off infections from pathogenic microorganisms. In effect, this means that immunity-activating nonpathogenic microorganisms can function like vaccines for plants, providing a low-risk stimulus for the plant’s immune system that prepares it for dealing with genuine threats. These are exciting findings for crop scientists because they suggest the possibility of using such pretreatment as a form of biological pest control that would reduce the need for agricultural pesticides.

However, before pretreatment with nonpathogenic microorganisms can become a standard agricultural technology, scientists need a way to screen microorganisms for the ability to stimulate plant immune systems without harming the plants. There is currently no simple method for evaluating the ability of microorganisms to activate plant immune systems. Conventional methods involve the use of whole plants and microorganisms, and this inevitably makes conventional screening a time-consuming and expensive affair. To address this problem, Associate Professor Toshiki Furuya and Professor Kazuyuki Kuchitsu of Tokyo University of Science and their colleagues decided to develop a screening strategy involving cultured plant cells. A description of their method appears in a paper recently published in Scientific Reports.

The first step in this screening strategy involves incubating the candidate microorganism together with BY-2 cells, which are tobacco plant cells known for their rapid and stable growth rates. The next step is to treat the BY-2 cells with cryptogein, which is a protein secreted by fungus-like pathogenic microorganisms that can elicit immune responses from tobacco plants. A key part of the cryptogein-induced immune responses is the production of a class of chemicals called reactive oxygen species (ROS), and scientists can easily measure cryptogein-induced ROS production and use it as a metric for evaluating the effects of the nonpathogenic microorganisms. To put it simply, an effective pretreatment agent will increase the BY-2 cells’ ROS production levels (i.e., cause the cells to exhibit stronger immune system activation) in response to cryptogein exposure.Play00:0002:35MuteSettingsPIPEnter fullscreen

PlayMicrobe-Based Replacements for Chemical Pesticide Replacement.A team of scientists from Tokyo University of Science has developed a screening method based on cultured plant cells that makes such testing easier. This may lead to microorganism-based crop protection methods that reduce the need for chemical pesticides. Credit: Tokyo University of Science

To test the practicability of their screening strategy, Dr. Furuya and his colleagues used the strategy on 29 bacterial strains isolated from the interior of the Japanese mustard spinach plant (Brassica rapa var. perviridis), and they found that 8 strains boosted cryptogein-induced ROS production. They then further tested those 8 strains by applying them to the root tips of seedlings from the Arabidopsis genus, which contains species commonly used as model organisms for studies of plant biology. Interestingly, 2 of the 8 tested strains induced whole-plant resistance to bacterial pathogens.

Based on the proof-of-concept findings concerning those 2 bacterial strains, Dr. Furuya proudly notes that his team’s screening method “can streamline the acquisition of microorganisms that activate the immune system of plants.” When asked how he envisions the screening method affecting agricultural practices, he explains that he expects his team’s screening system “to be a technology that contributes to the practical application and spread of microbial alternatives to chemical pesticides.”

In time, the novel screening method developed by Dr. Furuya and team may make it significantly easier for crop scientists create greener agricultural methods that rely on the defense mechanisms that plants themselves have evolved over millions of years.


Explore furtherA minty-fresh solution: Using a menthol-like compound to activate plant immune mechanisms


More information: Mari Kurokawa et al, An efficient direct screening system for microorganisms that activate plant immune responses based on plant–microbe interactions using cultured plant cells, Scientific Reports (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-86560-0Journal information:Scientific ReportsProvided by Tokyo University of Science

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Soil Biodiversity Under Grave Threat from Pesticides – Most Comprehensive Review Ever

Posted on May 7 2021 – 3:00pm by Sustainable Pulse« PREVIOUSNEXT »Categorized as

new study published Tuesday by the academic journal Frontiers in Environmental Science finds that pesticides widely used in American agriculture pose a grave threat to organisms that are critical to healthy soil, biodiversity and soil carbon sequestration to fight climate change. Yet those harms are not considered by U.S. regulators.

The study, by researchers at the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth U.S. and the University of Maryland, is the largest, most comprehensive review of the impacts of agricultural pesticides on soil organisms ever conducted.

The researchers compiled data from nearly 400 studies, finding that pesticides harmed beneficial, soil-dwelling invertebrates including earthworms, ants, beetles and ground nesting bees in 71% of cases reviewed.

“It’s extremely concerning that 71% of cases show pesticides significantly harm soil invertebrates,” said Dr. Tara Cornelisse, an entomologist at the Center and co-author of the study. “Our results add to the evidence that pesticides are contributing to widespread declines of insects, like beneficial predaceous beetles and pollinating solitary bees. These troubling findings add to the urgency of reining in pesticide use.”

The findings come on the heels of a recent study published in the journal Science showing pesticide toxicity has more than doubled for many invertebrates since 2005. Despite reduced overall use of insecticides, the chemicals most commonly used today, including neonicotinoids, are increasingly toxic to beneficial insects and other invertebrates. Pesticides can linger in the soil for years or decades after they are applied, continuing to harm soil health.

The reviewed studies showed impacts on soil organisms that ranged from increased mortality to reduced reproduction, growth, cellular functions and even reduced overall species diversity. Despite these known harms, the Environmental Protection Agency does not require soil organisms to be considered in any risk analysis of pesticides. What’s more, the EPA gravely underestimates the risk of pesticides to soil health by using a species that spends its entire life aboveground — the European honeybee — to estimate harm to all soil invertebrates.

“Below the surface of fields covered with monoculture crops of corn and soybeans, pesticides are destroying the very foundations of the web of life,” said Dr. Nathan Donley, another co-author and scientist at the Center. “Study after study indicates the unchecked use of pesticides across hundreds of millions of acres each year is poisoning the organisms critical to maintaining healthy soils. But our regulators have been ignoring the harm to these important ecosystems for decades.”

Soil invertebrates provide a variety of essential ecosystem benefits such as cycling nutrients that plants need to grow, decomposing dead plants and animals so that they can nourish new life, and regulating pests and diseases. They’re also critical for the process of carbon conversion. As the idea of “regenerative agriculture” and using soil as a carbon sponge to help fight climate change gains momentum around the world, the findings of this study confirm that reducing pesticide use is a key factor in protecting the invertebrate ecosystem engineers that play a critical role in carbon sequestration in the soil.

“Pesticide companies are continually trying to greenwash their products, arguing for the use of pesticides in ‘regenerative’ or ‘climate-smart’ agriculture,” said Dr. Kendra Klein, a co-author who’s also a senior scientist at Friends of the Earth. “This research shatters that notion and demonstrates that pesticide reduction must be a key part of combatting climate change in agriculture.”

“We know that farming practices such as cover cropping and composting build healthy soil ecosystems and reduce the need for pesticides in the first place,” said co-author Dr. Aditi Dubey of the University of Maryland. “However, our farm policies continue to prop up a pesticide-intensive food system. Our results highlight the need for policies that support farmers to adopt ecological farming methods that help biodiversity flourish both in the soil and above ground.”

Background

The review paper looked at 394 published papers on the effects of pesticides on non-target invertebrates that have egg, larval or immature development in the soil. That review encompassed 275 unique species or groups of soil organisms and 284 different pesticide active ingredients or unique mixtures of pesticides.

The assessment analyzed how pesticides affected the following endpoints: mortality, abundance, richness and diversity, behavior, biochemical markers, impairment of reproduction and growth, and structural changes to the organism. This resulted in an analysis of more than 2,800 separate “cases” for analysis, measured as a change in a specific endpoint following exposure of a specific organism to a specific pesticide. It found that 71% of cases showed negative effects.

Negative effects were evident in both lab and field studies, across all studied pesticide classes, and in a wide variety of soil organisms and endpoints. Organophosphate, neonicotinoid, pyrethroid and carbamate insecticides, amide/anilide herbicides and benzimidazole and inorganic fungicides harmed soil organisms in more than 70% of cases reviewed.

Insecticides caused the most harm to nontarget invertebrates, with studies showing around 80% of tested endpoints negatively affected in ground beetles, ground nesting solitary bees, parasitic wasps, millipedes, centipedes, earthworms and springtails.

Herbicides and fungicides were especially detrimental to earthworms, nematodes and springtails.

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