Organic Insect (& Disease) Control
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) – Notice the word: ‘Management’ instead of ‘Control’! IPM is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests (and diseases) or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties.
A successful IPM program takes time, patience, short and long-term planning, flexibility, and commitment. The pest manager must spend time on self-education. Be aware that some IPM strategies, such as increasing beneficial insect habitat, may take more than a year to show results.
IPM Steps Include:
Scouting & monitoring (what’s happening, how many, how much…) I call this the cup-o-coffee approach. While you walk through the garden in the early morning, take note of what’s going on. Where are the insects and diseases and how bad is the problem? Many times the amount of pest damage does not warrant taking action. With diseases, however, you should begin a feeding and/or spraying routine BEFORE you see problems.
Identification – (who’s the culprit?) – You may be surprised. May insects that look as if they’d eat your last carrot, are actually beneficial and are only doing you favors by eating the insects that really are attacking your crops.
Learn as much as you can about that pest or disease
- Why is the pest there? (And what can you do to prevent that?)
- How did it arrive? (Can you short circuit or work around how it arrives?)
- Why don’t natural predators/parasites control the pest?
- Are plants affected by the disease or insects, weak from some other reason?
- Pest situation assessment – determine a threshold – how much is too much? Some plants can sustain a decent amount of insect damage before yields are effected, yet there are some insects that carry disease and so you should have a low tolerance for those.
- Choose a tactic or tactics
- Assess how it worked – This requires some sort of record keeping. That way, from year to year, you’ll know what worked.
At The Lord’s Acre we do a great deal of watching, assessing, monitoring, identifying and research to avoid spraying anything other than liquid fertilization. We want to eliminate the cause, not just treat the symptom. We also want to build up our levels of beneficial insects so they can help us do our job. When we do spray, here are the main things we use.
Pest Control we Use Only as Needed at The Lord’s Acre:
Beetles – Spinosad in the form of Monterey Garden Insect Spray (works for about 3 weeks unless it rains, on most beetles). AzaMax, Pyganic and handpicking,
Flea Beetles – Silver reflective material either as a ground cover or inside a cold frame. This works great on eggplant. For other crops, I feed them well and let them fend for themselves
Slugs – Diatomaceous earth
All insects – Surround – A micro-ground kaolin clay that we dilute in water and use in backpack sprayer. This also protects plants from extreme heat. We also occasionally use Neem Oil.
Caterpillars: dipel, thuricide, Bt, (These are all just other names for bacillus thurengensis)