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How to Combat Pests in Organic Farming
Organic farming pest control has a new name for the twenty-first century: integrated pest management or IPM. It is so named because there is no one perfect way to deter or destroy pests. Not only is controlling pests organically more work than spraying them with toxic chemicals, it involves putting together multiple strategies for a management plan.
You have to have three separate focuses for successful organic farming pest control. Insecticides which are organic is one area. There are many sprays and dusts that you can make from household and farm products which can deter pests. Cultural management is another area. This involves crop rotation, developing a schedule of spring, summer and fall plantings, and deciding which cover crops to grow. The area of biological control is also part of pest management. This can involve bringing in other insect predators, fungi or bacteria to battle the unwanted pests.
IPM requires excellent cost analysis skills to see which organic pest control methods are the most effective financially. It also means making drawings of your garden or crop-producing fields and indicating on these the best locations for specific vegetables or fruit trees. You need to have a written record of such endeavors as companion planting and crop rotation. You need to also keep a log of what pests you have, when they came, and what methods you used to address the problem.
Let’s take a look at some of these methods of organic pest control and how they work:
Insects are easily confused. That’s why reflective mulch is able to do its job of deterring insects. This mulch is plastic (polyethylene), and covered with a coating of aluminum. That makes the surface very shiny, so it is able to take the ultraviolet light that comes from the sun and reflect it back to the sky. The insects are confounded by the brightness and that stops them from being able to land on the leaves of the plants. Several insects can be controlled by this method, including thrips, whiteflies and aphids.
Foliar sprays, insecticidal soaps
Natural insect sprays
Sprays do not need to contain lethal doses of toxins in order to control pests. There are many organic substances which can be used to keep insects and other pests at bay. For instance, pyrethrins are compounds which come from chrysanthemums, and these are extracted to make oils and powders. Another organic insecticide is rotenone, which is derived from a tropical plant. Rotenone has been used for decades, but there is now some concern about its own toxicity, and whether or not there is a link between the plant extract and Parkinson’s disease.
Pyrethrins can be used to control such insects as stink bugs, squash bugs, blister beetles, Colorado potato beetles, harlequin bugs, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, bean leaf beetles, thrips and others.
Another foliar spray that comes from a tree is neem oil. The neem tree originated in Southeast Asia. This oil works to control a wide assortment of insects, including Japanese beetles, aphids, crickets, flea beetles, stink bugs, whiteflies, cabbage worms, thrips, harlequin bugs, grasshoppers and others.
Soaps for insects
Many of these same insects can be repelled or killed by the use of insecticidal soaps. These can be purchased from organic supply stores or you can try some homemade versions. The easiest one is just to mix water and dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle and spray it onto the leaves of the plants. Don’t forget the undersides of the leaves either. Because insects don’t like hot and spicy foods, you can add garlic, onions or peppers to the mix. Just boil these vegetables in water for at least 15 minutes and then add the water to your spray bottle. A lot of insects will be deterred by the smell.
Insects are not all bad
When you use synthetic pesticides, you not only kill the insects which damage the plants but all the other insects as well. Many of these insects are very helpful in the garden and if, given the chance will pursue and devour the problem insects. You may have many beneficial insects in your garden already, or you may want to import more to deal with an infestation. There are companies which do nothing but breed insects to sell.
If you have aphids or spider mites, increase your population of green lacewings and ladybugs. Aphids, thrips, corn earworms and spider mites can all be eaten by minute pirate bugs. When it comes to caterpillars, corn rootworms, stinkbugs, corn borers and cutworms, give soldier beetles a try. Tachinid flies are pursuers of armyworms, cutworms, stinkbugs, caterpillars and corn borers.
It doesn’t matter if you have a tiny garden out back of your home or acres of vegetables which you sell commercially, pests can be organically controlled. You can buy soaps and sprays or make up your own–all without using pesticides which will harm life on earth. Start by making a commitment to grow foods organically, and then set up your own integrated pest management plan.
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