Programs in pest management teach people how to protect crops and gardens from insects, animals, and weeds. Students learn the science of weeds, plants, and crops. They study pesticides and herbicides and how to use them. They also learn about animal and insect science.
Are you someone who can't stand the sound of a house fly buzzing around your room or the sight of a line of ants marching across your kitchen counter? If you think household pests are bad, imagine how farmers feel about pests that threaten their very livelihood.
Consider the locust, a fierce relative of the grasshopper. Since ancient times, farmers have been plagued by swarms of these crop-destroying insects. Containing at least 40 million individuals per square kilometer, these swarms are so large that they block out sunlight. They've even been known to halt plane, train, and automobile travel. Just half a million locusts eats as much food in one day as about 10 elephants, 25 camels, or 2,500 people!
The word "pest" takes on a whole new meaning, doesn't it?
The threat of pests doesn't affect only farmers. It also affects those of us who depend on farmers for their food and fiber crops. And if you think about it, there aren't very many of us who don't depend on farmers. Pests such as mosquitoes that carry diseases can also affect our very health and well-being. Studying pest management teaches you to minimize the damage that these pests cause.
Pest management programs combine courses from several departments, including entomology (the study of insects), weed science, and plant pathology (the study of plant diseases). As a student in this program of study, you learn about different kinds of insects. You learn which ones are considered pests and which ones actually help plants to grow and produce crops. This information gives you the background to study methods of controlling insect pests. Sometimes, you also study vertebrate pests such as gophers and field mice.
Although pests pose a large problem for agriculture, sometimes plants are threatened by other plants. Because of this, programs also teach you about the science of weeds and fungi such as molds, mildews, and poisonous mushrooms. You learn to identify and remove them when they pose a threat to other living things.
As you might imagine, if chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides can kill weeds and insects, there is a chance that they could be harmful to humans too. Because of this, learning to protect plants and crops can be complicated. You need to study ways that pest control and plant protection might impact human beings and the environment. You also need to learn the changing state and national regulations on control tactics.
A few colleges and universities offer programs in pest management. In addition, every state has a land grant college that offers agricultural science programs where you could also pursue this program of study.
You can typically earn either an associate or bachelor's degree. An associate degree generally takes about two years of full-time study after high school, and a bachelor's degree usually about two years after that. In addition, some schools offer one-year certificate programs.