Importance of insects to agriculture

When most of us hear the word insect, the first thing that comes to our head is pests. However, while some are pests, most are not. Insects occupy a significant position in our ecosystem. They perform specific tasks that no other organisms can perform. From a purely agricultural perspective, insects are indispensable as they provide specific services to crops. It is through these services performed by beneficial pests that humans have been able to sustain themselves. Sadly, many people are ignorant of this and end treating these beneficial insects as pests or use pesticides on such a scale that it affects both the pests and the beneficial insects, thereby leading to pest outbreaks since some of these beneficial insects are natural enemies of pests. With the increased use of pesticides, natural pest control services decrease the beneficial insects can no longer play their role in enhancing the agricultural process.

Roles or insects in agriculture.

  • Pollinators: Many insects serve as pollinators, obtaining nectar and pollen from flowers and transferring such to other flowers, through this process, the transfer male gametes to female gametes and help many plants to reproduce. This form of pollination is essential in many flowering plants such as sunflower, alfalfa, coriander, Apple, carrot, mustard, almond, leek, oil palm, etc. In fact, about 35% of global crop production is a result of insect pollination. Insect pollinators include bees, butterflies, weevil, flies, etc.
  • Natural enemies to pest: There are natural checks and balances in the environment that are in place to prevent one insect species from dominating every other and multiplying beyond ordinary. One of those natural checks is parasitoids and insect predators that feed on other insects, particularly insect pests that feed on plants. These predator insects exist in various species and are usually larger than the insect pests who are their preys. On a farm, these predator insects and parasitoids help to keep the pest population down at all times and prevent an outbreak. This is why incessant use of pesticides harmful to these insects can later lead to an outbreak when the predator insects die off.
  • Weed Killers: Another function of insects is that they help to kill weeds on farms. Many insects feed on weed in the same way they feed on cultivated crops; thereby, such insects help in eradicating weeds.
  • Soil Builders: There are insects that live inside the soil which means they burrow and make tunnels within the soil. These holes and tunnels serve as channels for other organisms, air, roots, and water to pass through. In such a manner, they help to improve the aeration of the soil and make the structure looser thereby allowing plants to access nutrients better. The excreta of insects also help to fertilize the soil, the dung beetle, for instance, makes its tunnel walls using dung which helps to maintain soil quality. Many of these insects are also scavengers, feeding on dead animals and plants and speeding up the decay process.