Maintaining productivity and profitability without pesticides: Researchers study how modified farming practices can lead to a healthier food supply

Bringing down the number of pesticides that are sprayed onto plants does not necessarily translate to diminishing yields, according to research from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA).

In their paper, published in the journal Nature, the authors investigated several French farms where pesticide use was adjusted to determine the exact amount of pesticide that is required.

The team embarked on this study to find a reasonable means of producing crops in this expanding population, which has been one of the most significant challenges of this century. To address this problem, the first thing that must be done is to curb any agrarian practice that poses a significant harm to our environment — one of the primary factors of which is pesticide use. To cut down on the use of pesticide is to protect nature, as well as human health. The use of pesticides could well be diminished through applying new methods in production, despite the ongoing debate on the effects of significant reduction of pesticides on production and profit.

The research team was able to illustrate in the study that using fewer pesticides does not diminish the productivity and profitability of arable farms. This was done by studying potential contradictions between pesticide use and productivity or profitability using information from 946 non-organic arable commercial farms that have differing levels of pesticide use and cover a vast expanse of production processes in France.

Based on the results, there was no contradiction between the decrease in pesticide use and increase in productivity and profit in 77 percent of the farms. Authors posited that reducing pesticide use by up to 42 percent will not have any adverse effects on the productivity and profitability of 59 percent of farms that were sampled. Moreover, farms that currently use high amounts of pesticide stand to gain the most from this reduction.

This holds significant changes in the way farms will produce in the future. The study has pointed out that reducing pesticide use to increase yield is a readily-available option for most farmers, as long as some adjustments are made to the cropping systems. Such changes include crop diversification (introducing of tough crops or meadows where there is livestock farming); variety diversification (selecting different varieties of a crop to see how each respond to environmental stresses); adjusting planting dates and preparation conditions while additionally altering yield targets for specific types of crops; making use of stale seedbed systems; and mechanical weeding. There may be challenges that may arise in adapting these methods. The study points out that some of these procedures may require guidance in areas such as arranging their farming schedule and assessing the increase in risk that could result from the shift.

Pesticides and you: A deadly combination

Pesticide use in crops harms the environment — that much can be said. However, people also suffer from the effects of pesticides after these enter our system. Studies have listed down the potential dangers of pesticides to humans: from possible problems that may develop in a baby if the mother is exposed during pregnancy to its impact on diseases like Parkinson’s, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. Experts have noted that at least 100 different pesticides can cause neurological damage to adults and can impair brain development. (Related: Pesticide formulations up to 1000 times more toxic than active ingredients tested for safety.)

Learn more about how to protect yourself from harmful pesticides at

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