The control of crop pests is as old as human civilization itself. Since the prehistoric era, human beings have used several primitive means in an effort to protect their crop yields. The Chaldeans were the first to use jackstraws. In addition, it is widely known that the ancient Greeks and Romans used sulfur, the effectiveness of the use of which, however, seems to have been known even earlier, by the Sumerians around 2500 B.C. The burning of plants was usual in ancient times for the disinfection of closed rooms (Koutselinis, 1997)

In spite of substantial human effort, the evolution of the several means of plant protection has been considerably retarded, and only from the middle of the sixteenth century did man witness the appearance of chemicals for the purpose of controlling certain crop pests. Arsenic was first used in 1669 and tobacco extract (whose active ingredient is nicotine) was first used as an insecticide in 1690. In 1845, the government of Prussia introduced phosphorus as a rodenticide; derris appeared around 1848 as an insecticide and in 1868 Paris green started being applied for the control of potato Coleopterans. From then and until the outbreak of World War II, various means of plant protection were used, with inorganic substances prevailing among them. The first organic pesticide was DDT; it had been known since 1874 when it was invented by a German chemist, but only in 1939 did the Swiss Paul Müller ascertain its insecticidal qualities. Since that time many new chemical substances have been produced and nowadays the number of pesticides exceeds 10,000, of which only 600–800 are used, whereas there are about 12,000 commercial combinations. In the Greek market, for example, about 1,350 commercial products exist (Polyrakis, 2004)


Pesticide Residue Crop Pest Maleic Hydrazide Dimethyl Fumarate Organophosphorus Insecticide 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ioannis T. Polyrakis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental EngineeringTechnical University of Crete , PolytechnioupolisChaniaGreece

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