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Natural pest control ... using bugs!

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    I'm a bug lover, myself --
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    not from childhood, by the way,
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    but rather late.
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    When I bachelored,
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    majoring in zoology
    at Tel Aviv University,
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    I kind of fell in love with bugs.
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    And then, within zoology,
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    I took the course
    or the discipline of entomology,
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    the science of insects.
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    And then I thought to myself,
    how can I be practical
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    or help in the science of entomology?
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    And then I moved to the world
    of plant protection --
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    plant protection from insects,
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    from bad bugs.
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    And then within plant protection,
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    I came into the discipline
    of biological pest control,
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    which we actually define
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    as the use of living organisms
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    to reduce populations
    of noxious plant pests.
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    So it's a whole discipline
    in plant protection
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    aimed at the reduction of chemicals.
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    And biological pest control, by the way,
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    or these "good bugs"
    that we are talking about,
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    they've existed in the world
    for thousands and thousands of years,
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    for a long, long time.
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    But only in the last 120 years,
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    people started, or people
    knew more and more
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    how to exploit, or how to use,
    this biological control phenomenon,
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    or in fact, natural control phenomenon,
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    for their own needs.
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    Because biological control phenomenon --
    you can see it in your backyard.
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    Just take a magnifying glass.
    You see what I have here?
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    That's a magnifier, times 10.
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    You just open it, twist leaves,
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    and you see a whole new world
    of minute insects,
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    or little spiders of one millimeter,
    one-and-a-half, two millimeters long,
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    and you can distinguish
    between the good ones and the bad ones.
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    So this phenomenon of natural control
    exists literally everywhere.
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    Here, in front of this building, I'm sure.
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    Just have a look at the plants.
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    So it's everywhere,
    and we need to know how to exploit it.
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    Well, let's go hand by hand
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    and browse through just a few examples.
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    What is a pest?
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    What damage does it actually
    inflict on the plant?
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    And what is the natural enemy,
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    the biological control agent,
    or the "good bug"
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    that we're talking about?
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    In general, I'm going to talk
    about insects and spiders,
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    or mites, let us call them.
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    Insects, those six-legged organisms
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    and spiders or mites,
    the eight-legged organisms.
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    Let's have a look at that.
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    Here is a devastating pest, a spider mite,
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    because it does a lot
    of webbing, like a spider.
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    You see the mother in between,
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    and two daughters, probably,
    on the left and right,
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    and a single egg on the right-hand side.
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    And then you see
    what kind of damage it can inflict.
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    On your right-hand side,
    you can see a cucumber leaf,
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    in the middle, a cotton leaf,
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    and on the left, a tomato leaf
    with these little stipplings.
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    They can literally turn
    from green to white,
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    because of the sucking, piercing
    mouth parts of those spiders.
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    But here comes nature,
    that provides us with a good spider.
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    This is a predatory mite --
    just as small as a spider mite;
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    one, two millimeters long,
    not more than that --
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    running quickly, hunting,
    chasing the spider mites.
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    And here, you can see this lady
    in action on your left-hand side --
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    just pierces, sucks the body fluids
    on the left-hand side of the pest mite.
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    And after five minutes,
    this is what you see:
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    just a typical dead corpse --
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    the shriveled, sucked-out,
    dead corpse of the spider mite,
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    and next to it, two satiated
    individuals, predatory mites,
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    a mother on the left-hand side,
    a young nymph on the right-hand side.
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    By the way, a meal for them for 24 hours,
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    is about five of the spider mites,
    of the bad mites,
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    and-or 15 to 20 eggs of the pest mites.
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    By the way, they are always hungry.
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    (Laughter)
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    And here is another example: aphids.
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    It's springtime now in Israel.
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    When temperatures rise sharply,
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    you can see those bad ones,
    those aphids, all over the plants --
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    in your hibiscus, in your lantana,
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    in the young, fresh foliage
    of the so-called spring flush.
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    By the way, with aphids you have
    only females, like Amazons.
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    Females giving rise to females,
    giving rise to other females.
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    No males at all.
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    Parthenogenesis, as it's so called.
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    And they're very happy
    with that, apparently.
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    (Laughter)
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    Here we can see the damage.
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    Those aphids secrete a sticky,
    sugary liquid called honeydew,
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    and this just clogs
    the upper parts of the plant.
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    Here you see a typical cucumber leaf
    that turned from green to black
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    because of a black fungus, sooty mold,
    which is covering it.
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    And here comes the salvation,
    through this parasitic wasp.
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    Here we are not talking about a predator.
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    Here we are talking a parasite --
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    not a two-legged parasite,
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    but an eight-legged parasite, of course.
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    This is a parasitic wasp,
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    again, two millimeters long, slender,
    a very quick and sharp flier.
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    And here you can see
    this parasite in action,
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    like in an acrobatic maneuver.
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    She stands vis-à-vis
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    in front of the victim
    at the right-hand side,
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    bending its abdomen
    and inserting a single egg
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    into the body fluids of the aphid.
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    By the way, the aphid tries to escape.
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    She kicks and bites
    and secretes different liquids,
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    but nothing will happen, in fact --
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    only the egg of the parasitoid
    will be inserted
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    into the body fluids of the aphid.
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    And after a few days,
    depending upon temperature,
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    the egg will hatch
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    and the larva of this parasite
    will eat the aphid from the inside.
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    (Laughter)
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    This is all natural. This is all natural.
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    This is not fiction, nothing at all.
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    Again -- in your backyard.
    In your backyard.
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    (Laughter)
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    (Applause)
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    But this is the end result: mummies.
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    This is the visual result
    of a dead aphid encompassing inside,
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    a developing parasitoid that,
    after a few minutes, you see halfway out.
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    The birth is almost complete.
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    You can see, by the way,
    in different movies, etc.,
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    it takes just a few minutes.
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    And if this is a female,
    she'll immediately mate with a male
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    and off she goes,
    because time is very short.
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    This female can live
    only three to four days,
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    and she needs to give rise
    to around 400 eggs.
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    That means she has 400 bad aphids
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    to put her eggs into their body fluids.
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    This is, of course, not the end of it.
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    There is a whole wealth
    of other natural enemies
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    and this is just the last example.
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    Again, we'll start first with the pest:
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    the thrips.
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    By the way, all these weird names --
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    I didn't bother you with the Latin
    names of these creatures,
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    just the popular names.
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    But this is a nice,
    slender, very bad pest.
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    If you can see this: sweet peppers.
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    This is not just an exotic,
    ornamental sweet pepper.
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    This is a sweet pepper
    which is not consumable
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    because it is suffering
    from a viral disease
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    transmitted by those thrip adults.
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    And here comes the natural enemy,
    minute pirate bug --
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    "minute," because it is rather small.
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    Here you can see the adult,
    black, and two young ones.
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    And again, in action.
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    This adult pierces the thrips,
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    sucking it within just several minutes,
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    going to the other prey,
    continuing all over the place.
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    And if we spread those minute
    pirate bugs, the good ones,
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    for example, in a sweet pepper plot,
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    they go to the flowers.
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    And look -- this flower is flooded
    with predatory bugs, with the good ones,
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    after wiping out the bad ones, the thrips.
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    So this is a very positive situation.
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    No harm to the developing fruit.
    No harm to the fruit set.
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    Everything is just fine
    under these circumstances.
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    But again, the question is,
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    here you saw them on a one-to-one basis --
    the pest, the natural enemy.
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    What we do is actually this.
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    In Northeast Israel,
    in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu,
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    there is a facility that mass-produces
    those natural enemies.
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    In other words, what we do there
    is amplify the natural control,
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    or the biological control phenomenon.
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    And in 30,000 square meters
    of state-of-the-art greenhouses,
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    there, we are mass-producing
    those predatory mites,
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    those minute pirate bugs,
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    those parasitic wasps, etc.
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    Many different parts.
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    By the way, they have
    a very nice landscape --
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    you see the Jordanian Mountains
    on the one hand,
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    and the Jordan Valley on the other hand,
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    and a good, mild winter
    and a nice, hot summer,
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    which is an excellent condition
    to mass-produce those creatures.
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    And by the way, mass-production --
    it is not genetic manipulation.
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    There are no GMOs -- genetically
    modified organisms -- whatsoever.
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    We take them from nature,
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    and the only thing that we do
    is give them the optimal conditions,
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    under the greenhouses
    or in the climate rooms,
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    in order to proliferate,
    multiply and reproduce.
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    And that's what we get.
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    You see under a microscope.
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    You see in the upper left corner?
    You see a single predatory mite.
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    And this is the whole bunch
    of predatory mites.
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    You see this ampul. You see this one.
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    I have one gram of those predatory mites.
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    One gram is 80,000 individuals.
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    80,000 individuals are good enough
    to control one acre,
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    4,000 square meters,
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    of a strawberry plot
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    against spider mites for the whole season
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    of almost one year.
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    And we can produce
    from this, believe you me,
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    several dozens of kilograms
    on an annual basis.
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    So this is what I call
    amplification of the phenomenon.
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    And no, we do not disrupt the balance.
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    On the contrary,
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    because we bring it to every cultural plot
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    where the balance was already disrupted
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    by the chemicals.
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    Here we come with those natural enemies
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    in order to reverse
    a little bit of the wheel
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    and to bring more natural balance
    to the agricultural plot
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    by reducing those chemicals.
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    That's the whole idea.
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    And what is the impact?
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    In this table, you can
    actually see what is an impact
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    of a successful biological
    control by good bugs.
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    For example, in Israel, where we employ
    more than 1,000 hectares --
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    10,000 dunams in Israeli terms --
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    of biological pests
    controlling sweet pepper
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    under protection,
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    75 percent of the pesticides
    were actually reduced.
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    And Israeli strawberries, even more --
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    80 percent of the pesticides,
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    especially those aimed
    against pest mites in strawberries.
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    So the impact is very strong.
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    And there goes the question,
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    especially if you ask
    growers, agriculturists:
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    Why biological control?
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    Why good bugs?
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    By the way, the number of answers you get
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    equals the number of people you ask.
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    But if we go, for example,
    to this place, Southeast Israel,
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    the Arava area
    above the Great Rift Valley,
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    where the pearl of Israeli
    agriculture is located,
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    especially under greenhouse conditions,
    or under screenhouse conditions --
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    if you drive all the way
    to Eilat, you see this
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    just in the middle of the desert.
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    And if you zoom in,
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    you can definitely watch this:
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    grandparents with their grandchildren,
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    distributing the natural
    enemies, the good bugs,
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    instead of wearing special clothes
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    and gas masks and applying chemicals.
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    So safety, with respect
    to the application,
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    is the number one answer
    that we get from growers,
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    for "Why biological control?"
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    Number two, many growers
    are, in fact, petrified
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    by the idea of resistance,
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    that the pests will become
    resistant to the chemicals,
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    just like in our case, that bacteria
    becomes resistant to antibiotics.
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    It's the same, and it can
    happen very quickly.
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    Fortunately, in either biological control
    or even natural control,
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    resistance is extremely rare.
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    It hardly happens.
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    Because this is evolution,
    this is the natural ratio,
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    unlike resistance, which happens
    in the case of chemicals.
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    And thirdly, public demand.
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    The more the public demands
    the reduction of chemicals,
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    the more growers become aware of the fact
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    that they should, wherever they can
    and wherever possible,
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    replace the chemical control
    with biological control.
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    Even here, there is another grower,
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    you see, very interested in the bugs,
    the bad ones and the good ones,
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    wearing this magnifier
    already on her head,
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    just walking safely in her crop.
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    Finally, I want to get to my vision,
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    or, in fact, to my dream.
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    Because, you see, this is the reality.
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    Have a look at the gap.
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    If we take the overall turnover
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    of the biocontrol industry worldwide,
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    it's 250 million dollars.
  • 13:49 - 13:52
    And look at the overall pesticide industry
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    in all the crops throughout the world.
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    I think it's times 100
    or something like that.
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    Twenty-five billion.
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    So there is a huge gap to bridge.
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    So actually, how can we do it?
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    How can we bridge, or let's say,
    narrow, this gap over the years?
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    First of all, we need to find more robust,
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    good and reliable biological solutions,
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    more good bugs that we can
    either mass-produce
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    or actually conserve in the field.
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    Secondly, to create even more intensive
    and strict public demand
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    for the reduction of chemicals
    in agricultural fresh produce.
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    And thirdly, also to increase
    awareness by the growers
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    to the potential of this industry.
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    And this gap really narrows.
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    Step by step, it does narrow.
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    So I think my last slide is:
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    All we are saying --
    we can actually sing it --
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    Give nature a chance.
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    I'm saying it on behalf
    of all the biocontrol practitioners
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    and implementers,
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    in Israel and abroad,
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    really give nature a chance.
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    Thank you.
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    (Applause)
Title:
Natural pest control ... using bugs!
Speaker:
Shimon Steinberg
Description:

At TEDxTelAviv, Shimon Steinberg looks at the difference between pests and bugs -- and makes the case for using good bugs to fight bad bugs, avoiding chemicals in our quest for perfect produce.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
15:03

English subtitles

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