“Conservative biological control consists of manipulating the agricultural landscape, via strategic diversification of vegetation, to increase the population of the natural enemies of pests…”
Madelaine Venzon is an agronomist from the Federal University of Pelotas, has a master’s degree in plant health from the Federal University of Lavras, Ph.D. in population biology from the University of Amsterdam and a postdoctoral degree from the University of California.
Venzon is a researcher at the Agricultural Research Company of Minas Gerais – Epamig and a professor of the post-graduate course in entomology, of the master’s course in plant health protection and in the plant protection course at the Federal University of Viçosa.
Epamig studies diversified management strategies to control pests in different crops, including coffee. One of the strategies is the conservative biological control, which uses wild plants to attract natural enemies.
AgriBrasilis – What does the conservative biological control technique consist of? How should it be applied in extensive crops, such as coffee?
Madelaine Venzon – It consists in the manipulation of the agricultural landscape, via strategic diversification of vegetation, to increase the population of the natural enemies of pests (predators, parasitoids and entomopathogens) that already exist in nature, but are in low numbers in monoculture farming.
In coffee cultivation, several conservative biological control strategies* can be applied, such as those described below, developed by Epamig and its partners.
- Use of cover plants between the coffee lines, containing buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea), crambe and fodder radish (Raphanus sativus L.);
- Afforestation of farms with bushes of “baleeira” (Cordia verbenacea);
- Afforestation of farms with “ingá” trees (Inga spp.);
- Afforestation of farms with “fedegoso” (Senna occidentalis) trees.
AgriBrasilis – What is the importance of research in the area of agroecology and what advances does it bring for agricultural production?
Madelaine Venzon – It is important because it aligns production with the maintenance of biodiversity, always respecting the environment.
Among the benefits for production are the increase in pollinators, biological control, decreased soil degradation, increased soil fertility, decrease in invasive plants, and less dependence on external inputs, which generates more profit for the farmer.
The end result is a healthy environment for workers; for consumers, through waste-free products; and for the environment.
AgriBrasilis – What are climate-smart agriculture strategies?
Madelaine Venzon – These are strategies that can be used by the farmer to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change and also result in gains, such as increased ecosystem services, such as pollination, nutrient cycling and biological pest control.
AgriBrasilis – How is the application of techniques and research developed at Epamig?
Madelaine Venzon – Partnerships can be developed with universities, companies and directly with farmers. The research follows several stages, starting in laboratories, greenhouses, moving on to Epamig’s experimental fields, and, finally, demonstration units on producers’ farms. During these stages, the results are disseminated via Epamig’s technical events and publications.
AgriBrasilis – What are the main studies in the area of agroecology and what is expected of them?
Madelaine Venzon – Our studies focus on conservative biological control and we are always researching new multifunctional plant arrangements that lessen the impact of pests on coffee. We also work with plant extracts for use as a corrective measure, should the need arise.
We hope that over time more farmers are using these strategies and become less dependent on external inputs for pest management, and free of pesticides.
*Conservative biological control, unlike augmentative biological control, does not release natural enemies of pests directly into coffee plantations, favoring practices that modify the agricultural landscape in the medium to long term. This causes the natural enemies of pests that already exist in the area to increase their populations and promotes a beneficial increase in the biodiversity of insects in the environment.