Effective pest control remains an essential part of food production, and it is provided both by chemicals and by natural enemies within agricultural ecosystems. These methods of control are often in conflict because of the negative impact of chemicals on natural enemies. There are already well-established approaches such as those provided by the International Organization for Biological and Integrated Control–Pesticides and Beneficial Organisms for testing, collecting, and publishing information on responses of natural enemies to chemicals based on laboratory responses of specific organisms; however, these tests do not assess the cumulative impact of chemical inputs across an entire season or consider impacts on the complex communities of natural enemies that can provide effective pest control on a farm. Here, we explore the potential of different approaches for assessing the impact of chemicals on agricultural ecosystems and we propose a simple metric for sustainable chemical use on farms that minimizes overall impact on beneficial groups. We suggest ways in which the effectiveness of metrics can be extended to include persistence and habitat features. Such metrics can assist farmers in developing targets for sustainable chemical use as demonstrated in the viticultural industry.
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