Resistance to pesticides in arthropod pests is a significant economic, ecological and public health problem. Although extensive research has been conducted on diverse aspects of pesticide resistance and we have learned a great deal during the past 50 years, to some degree the discussion about ‘resistance management’ has been based on ‘myths’. One myth involves the belief that we can manage resistance. I will maintain that we can only attempt to mitigate resistance because resistance is a natural evolutionary response to environmental stresses. As such, resistance will remain an ongoing dilemma in pest management and we can only delay the onset of resistance to pesticides.
‘Resistance management’ models and tactics have been much discussed but have been tested and deployed in practical pest management programmes with only limited success. Yet the myth persists that better models will provide a ‘solution’ to the problem. The reality is that success in using mitigation models is limited because these models are applied to inappropriate situations in which the critical genetic, ecological, biological or logistic assumptions cannot be met. It is difficult to predict in advance which model is appropriate to a particular situation; if the model assumptions cannot be met, applying the model sometimes can increase the rate of resistance development rather than slow it down.
Are there any solutions? I believe we already have one. Unfortunately, it is not a simple or easy one to deploy. It involves employing effective agronomic practices to develop and maintain a healthy crop, monitoring pest densities, evaluating economic injury levels so that pesticides are applied only when necessary, deploying and conserving biological control agents, using host–plant resistance, cultural controls of the pest, biorational pest controls, and genetic control methods. As a part of a truly multi–tactic strategy, it is crucial to evaluate the effect of pesticides on natural enemies in order to preserve them in the cropping system. Sometimes, pesticide–resistant natural enemies are effective components of this resistance mitigation programme. Another name for this resistance mitigation model is integrated pest management (IPM). This complex model was outlined in some detail nearly 40 years ago by V. M. Stern and colleagues.
To deploy the IPM resistance mitigation model, we must admit that pest management and resistance mitigation programmes are not sustainable if based on a single–tactic strategy. Delaying resistance, whether to traditional pesticides or to transgenic plants containing toxin genes from Bacillus thuringiensis, will require that we develop multi–tactic pest management programmes that incorporate all appropriate pest management approaches. Because pesticides are limited resources, and their loss can result in significant social and economic costs, they should be reserved for situations where they are truly needed: as tools to subdue an unexpected pest population outbreak. Effective multi–tactic IPM programmes delay resistance (= mitigation) because the number and rates of pesticide applications will be reduced.