Posts Tagged ‘Organic Pest Control’

Ecological Pest Management

This is the 6th of a Series on Backyard Farming.  This article deals with natural methods for pest and disease management and control.
We practice ecological pest management in the farm. This means that you manage the ecology of your farm and not just get rid of pests by toxic pesticides.
  • Build a strong ecosystem with healthy soil, mulch and organic fertilizer. Your first line of defense is a healthy soil. Your plants will be healthy if your soil is healthy. Healthy plants will be able to resist insect and disease attack.
  • Mulching is a good way to control pests.  The mulch will house beneficial insects and earthworms.
  • Crop rotation will keep your soils healthy too.  Make sure that plants and not planted on the same spot every time.   Multiple cropping or companion planting also helps rid you of pests and diseases.  These too methods will provide a continuous source of food and encourage beneficials insects to remain in your bed. See article on Crop Rotation and Multiple Cropping.
  • We practice cover cropping in our farm.  The legumes boost our soil’s nutrient content, build more organic matter in the soil, and prevents erosion.
  • Make sure you have plenty of earthworms too!
  • The kind of plants you have will be crucial for pest/disease management and control.  Make sure you plant varieties that are resistant to the diseases that are common where you are.  Also, plant the kind of plants that thrive well given your topography and weather conditions.

If despite a healthy ecosystem and healthy plants, you still have pests/disease here are some tips and physical controls:

1.  For temperate crops, keep the leaves dry.  This is because insects and fungus thrive on wet leaves.  Wet leaves also spread disease.  In the farm, we use drip irrigation to make sure that our leaves are dry and there is not too much water.
2.  Your best control is BIOLOGICAL control.  This means you need to understand the life cycle of insects or pests so you can control them.  Also, the more variety of insects and animals you have in farm, the better your Biological Control.
Beneficials3.  We rely a lot on Beneficial Insects.  These are using insects, microbes, or bacteria to control pests and disease. They keep the population of damaging insects under control.  Unlike pesticides, they only kill the BAD guys.  IN our farm, we use  ladybugs, lace wings or stingless wasps that feed on pests.   For example, ladybugs are able to eat up to 1000 aphids a day.  Lace wings eat more than 200 pest eggs a week.  Wasps (Trichogramma) are able to control up to 28 species of insects.  You can read more about nurturing and making use of Beneficial Insects here.
Homemadetrap4.  We also make Homemade Controls and Sprays.  Here are some of what we use:

  • Flypaper
  • Do-it-yourself Sticky Traps:  Hanging sticky traps in trees or posts can help capture a lot of flying insects.
  • Neem Citronella:  Neem does not immediately kill the insect. Instead, it alters an insect’s behavior or life. Eventually the insect can no longer feed or breed or metamorphose, and cannot cause damage.
  • Fish Emulsion (Fish Amino Acid/Foliar): More than a pesticide, it doubles as a great fertilizer. Fish emulsions are wonderful sources of nutrients.  Read about Fish Emulsion here.
  • Coconut oil tobacco
  • Raw milk and Raw whey
Common Pests:   These are the common pests you will find in the garden and our recommendations:
  • Worms and Caterpillars:  They eat the larvae of plants and eradicate seedlings.  Effective controls are beneficial insects, multiple cropping and crop rotation.
  • Aphids: Aphids feed on the sap of the plant. They also transmit disease. You get aphids usually from too much nitrogen in soil and too much water or over fertilization.  Control aphids maintaining balance in soil.  You can do this by lessening water use and in our case, spraying BD 501.  We also us Neem Spray and alternate it with Coconut Oil Tobacco.  Another way is to flush aphids with high pressure sprayer (fish emulsion/milk)
  • Leaf Miner- You can prevent Leaf Miner if you spray Fermented Fish waste and Milk. You can also use sticky traps.  Crop rotation is recommended for prevention.
  • Flea Beetle–These insects attack during summer months and usually Asian vegetables.  They like dry environments.  Control these pests by wetting beds and mulching.
  • White Fly- You can use a spreader sticker (sticky traps) or coconut-oil based soap spray to control White Fly.
  • Diamond Back Moth–These moths will attack cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage.  To prevent outbreak, control the moth that lays the eggs through light traps, ordinary mosquito traps or have sacrificial beds.
Common Diseases
Note that with healthy soil enriched with biodynamic compost, most of your disease problems will disappear.  However, these are common diseases you may encounter:
*Always remember to prune or remove diseased plants.
  • Mildew is a fungal disease and includes white patches on leaves, discolored or yellow leaves and wilting.  Remove the infected areas and dispose it.  Do not add to your compost pile.

-Powdery Mildew- During dry season, you may experience powdery mildew.  To control or prevent this, keep leaves wet.  You can also use milk spray or neem oil.

-Downy Mildew- During wet season, you may experience downy mildew.  Don’t wet leaves at night.  You can also use milk spray or neem oil for prevention.
  • Blight– This is bacterial damage that causes rotting stems and roots, black or brown spots and lesions.  Trichoderma can suppress blight.  Once you have it, make sure to remove the plant and dispose.  Do not put in your compost pile.  To avoid the disease, practice crop rotation and plant resistant varieties.

Good luck!  You will be able to manage pests and diseases with a combination of: (1) Strong Ecosystem; (2)  Attentiveness; and (3)  Good use of organic controls.