Striking a Balance
Pest management is just that, learning to live and work in an environment where some sort of balance is maintained. It is not eradication, it is not warfare. It comes down to this:
As farmers, we need to make money from our efforts and investments;
At the same time, insects need a place to live and fulfill their biological cycles.
So the questions we ask ourselves are:
- What do we, as farmers, need to make our business successful?
- What role do the insects and diseases play in this endeavor?
- What knowledge and understanding do we need to allow this interface to exist, so we both win?
At Durst Organic Growers, this is the basis of pest management: co-existence in the agricultural eco-sphere. All participants are winners. All participants are honored.
In practice, this philosophy takes the form of intensive daily monitoring. Knowing what insects are in your field and how they are interacting is critical to a strong pest management program. Some of the monitoring practices we employ include: using sticky traps, scouting, observation, sweeping, and shaking plants.
When imbalances occur, our modes of response differ depending on the situation. See below for an example of some of our approaches. Keep in mind that all approaches are organically approved by CCOF.
- Setting Ourselves Up for Success
- Plant variety selection
- Timing of planting with respect to pest life cycles
- Fertility program
- Resistant Soils
- Crop Rotation
- Habitat Modification
- Cover Cropping
- Harbor strips
- Beneficial insect inundative releases (Green lace wings, pirate bugs, etc.)
- Disrupting Insect Cycles
- Feed Deterrants
- Plant Defense Boosting
- Reducing Insect Populations While Maintaining Beneficials
- Selective pesticides such as Bt and Spinosad
- Worst Case Scenario (i.e. We are going to lose the field)
- Pyrethrins - natural extract of chrysanthemums that kills most insects. As these can majorly disrupt beneficial populations as well, we avoid using them unless absolutely necessary.