Chemical-free pest management

Put Down the Chemicals, Pick up Integrated Pest Management

 

 
 

The hoverfly helps you manage pests

The hoverfly helps you manage pests

By Justin Gardener, REALfarmacy.com

The summer garden brings a bounty of vegetables. For some folks there is nothing tastier than a garden-fresh tomato and cucumber salad. As we enjoy the fruits of our labor, however, there may be little creatures in the garden enjoying their own feast on the precious crops.

Pests have been with us since the dawn of agriculture and always will be. They are products of the evolutionary arms race between plants and insects. Instead of futile attempts at eradication and dependence on various forms of poison, we can choose to manage pests so they do not significantly reduce the harvest.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a concept that uses scientific and common sense methods to prevent or reduce pest problems. Most problems can be prevented with sound farming practices such as crop rotation, soil enrichment, and encouraging beneficial insect populations. IPM also deals with bacteria and virus problems. As a last resort, pesticide applications can be used but should start with organic, non-toxic products like Neem oil.

Most IPM practices are the same whether for a home garden or a larger agricultural scale. Here is a good primer from Ohio State University.

 

“At the heart of IPM is the understanding that most crops can tolerate a certain amount of pest damage…”

There is no need to panic at the first sign of pest damage. Typically, healthy plants can lose up to 20% of their foliage with no effect on production. It’s actually better to let the pests do their thing for a little while because this attracts predatory insects and birds that will keep the pests in check.

Create a mini-ecosystem. A vital component of IPM is planting flowers, shrubs and trees to attract beneficial insects and songbirds. “Insectary plants” such as cilantro, dill, sweet alyssum, and marigold provide nectar for the adult forms of diminutive predators like parasitoid wasps and hoverflies. Plant native trees, shrubs, and perennials to provide food and habitat for honeybees, songbirds, and predatory insects like ground beetles and assassin bugs.

Rotating crops helps to prevent pest and disease organisms from becoming established in the soil. Enriching the soil with regular additions of organic matter keeps a living, thriving substrate going for your plants to grow healthy and resist pests.

The best we can do to manage pests is to become familiar with pests. Scout the garden, learn what is eating the leaves, watch for beneficial insects on the prowl. As always, knowledge is the best tool at your disposal. Find out specific ways of dealing with a pest. If damage continues unabated, use organic pesticides that are not harmful to beneficial insects and not toxic to your health.

There is much more to the subject of Integrated Pest Management. Its benefits are not limited to your garden and yourself. IPM is a way of improving the environment by reducing synthetic chemical use and providing wildlife habitat. It is a way of promoting self-sufficiency and sustainability.
Read more at http://www.realfarmacy.com/put-down-the-chemicals-pick-up-integrated-pest-management/#puc2aMU7z1dTBwOz.99




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