Integrated Pest Management?
What is Integrated Pest Management? It is a way to look at and think about your choices in pest control in your garden. For our certified organic farm, it’s the way we make concise plans on how to manage a particular pest.
Here are the basic steps:
1- Prevention = Forethought. Using nature to control nature.
2- Observation = monitoring plant health
3- It’s all about balance. The “good” and “bad”.
4- Proactive instead of reactive. A Plant Positive Approach = Habitat for the good guy.
5- Start with the least harmful method of control.
6- “Tolerance” a practice not action.
Prevention = Forethought
“The sooner we make peace with the landlords… The bugs… the sooner we’ll all do a lot better”. Most bugs and microbes are beneficial and often essential: Ex. pollination and Mycorrhizal. We are not in control. We can spray and spray and the more we spray the more they adapt: Ex. antibiotics.
Talking time to stand back and study the landscape is crucial in evaluating true health. Close up critical investigation of plants, especially the underside of leaves and at the base of plants. Plants don’t lie. If something is askew, plants will show it. We just need to listen to them.
Balance is the Key
Invite the beneficial microbes and beneficial insects (good guys). The good bugs keep the bad bugs in check. 1) Create a favorable environment for the “beneficial” and most of them will show up. 2) Import or purchase beneficial insects, decollate snails, Mycorrhizal fungi, predatory nematodes, and worm tea.
Creating habitat for the beneficial
Increasing Biodiversity is key to the health of any garden ecosystem. Plant Positive. Many native plants attract beneficials: Ex. buckwheat, sage, grasses, and Ceanothus. Small-flowered plants: Ex. lantana, alyssum, rosemary and many varieties of herbs. Native wildflowers also act as insectary plants to draw in predator species of insects. Mulching can encourage a multitude of beneficials, from fungal to insects. Compost use feeds the soil food web that acts as the immune system of the soil. Worm casting stimulates plants to produce chitinase, an enzyme that repels insect pests.
When pests are found the best action sometimes is non-action. They may be isolated or harmless. Use a firm stream of water to rid plants of common pests like Aphids. If needed wash off insects with a biodegradable soap solution. Discard infected plant or part, it is not advisable to compost it. If control is necessary, start with the least harmful method. If chemicals are a last resort, use carefully and correctly. It is extremely important to read and understand the label. A well-staffed nursery should have someone who can explain anything you don’t understand.
Adapted from UC IPM
Photo by Jared Belson