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Integrated Pest Management
The control of pests and diseases is a vital element for improving crop yields and the quality of the final output. Integrated pest management (IPM) helps in achieving this. Integrated pest management uses both mechanical, biological, as chemical control measures. The combined use of these 3 measures makes it an effective and environmentally sensitive tool. IPM uses these control measures in a particular order. It primarily focuses on preventing infestation through careful planning (use of polyculture with crop rotation, strong crops species, intercropping, weeding, ...) and intervenes (preferably without use of chemicals) when this is found necessary after observation.
First of all, we need to include regular observation of the agricultural fields. If at some point, one finds that more than 5% of the crops is being attacked by a specific pest or disease, action is needed. The method of dealing with the differ depending on the pest/disease. Note that it is not enough to simply remove a pest/disease from a crop. To ensure that the pest/disease no longer causes trouble, it is best to destroy it (by burning it). Alternatively, pests and diseases can be put on the compost pile yet will only be destroyed if the temperature in the pile runs high enough (50°-60°C).
IPM control measures
Mechanical control measures
Mechanical or "physical" control measures include: hand removal of insects (ie on the crops, or by attacking them at a different period in their lifecycle), soil steaming, trapsW, scarecrows, barriers such as sticky paste on tree trunks, fences, and row cover.
Hedges are also used Around the edge of vegetable patches or fields. They prevent animals and/or insects getting near to a crop by providing a barrier to larger pests.
Soil steamingW can be used as an ecological alternative to chemicals for soil sterilization. Different methods are available to induce steam into the soil in order to kill pests and increase soil health.
Biological control measures
Biological controls are measures that mainly includes using other organisms to eat the pests/diseases. This includes self-introduced species (called "biological control agents"W) for use in greenhouses, but also native predatory organisms that choose to reside in your garden or agricultural fields. In order to attract these, it is best to have a variety of plant species in your garden or in your agricultural fields (Polyculture). In addition, we can:
- Make a border next to your agricultural fields with insectary plantsW which attract beneficial insects. insectary plants are plants in the the fabaceae family and the Umbelliferae family. Besides using a border, we can also choose to interplant the insect-supporting crops with your main crops.
- We can also attract other beneficial organisms such as frogs, toads, ladybirds, hedgehogs, bats, birds, butterflies, bees, ... This can be done by for example making a pond, ladybird hotel, bird nesting box, bird table, hedgehog house, bat box, solitary bee hotel, nectar station, ...
- Besides insectary plants, insect-repellant plants and trap crops can be used. As the name implies, insect-repellant plants repel (certain) insects, whereas trap crops lures them to another location, away from the crops you wish to keep safe.
- We can also use animals we already keep for food to control our pests. For example, chickens, ducks, ... Make sure you allow them to run around your vegetable garden, ... freely only at times when they can not destroy any produce (ie lettuce, ...). In temperate climates, a good time is in spring, when harmful organisms (ie slugs, ...) are on the rise and you have not yet sown crops, nor have any fullgrown ones at the vegetable plot.
Note though that the suggested domesticated animals (chickens, ducks, ...) can be used yet are not native to any region themselves. As such, if they are used, they should be well confined, so that they can not escape into the environment. The same goes for other biological control agents (ladybugs, Praying mantises, Trichogramma wasps, Tachinid flies and Syrphid flies, ...) Use, where possible, native species.
Chemical control measures
Chemical controls (organic substances/mixtures poisonous or repelling to pests/diseases) are considered a last resort in IPM but sometimes they are needed. Unlike the methods noted above, they require direct action from the farmer. Following are some common organic pesticides; many can be made at home with a good recipe.
- For chewing, biting insects, use ingredients that are aromatic and distasteful such as garlic, onion, and pepper. Pepper sprays are available for purchase.
- For sucking bugs use soap solutions (not detergents) and clear oily solutions that coat their bodies and stop respiration. Safer soap is a common product that is found in every nursery.
- Pyrethrum is a bug bomb which was made from a type of Chrysanthemum flower but is now made synthetically. It is used to kill a wide variety of pests.
- Neem oil is a fungicide as well as insecticide.
A major problem with pesticides is that pests/diseases build immunity to them which decreases their efficiency over time. It should be noted though that organic pesticides are decomposed quite quickly and so resistance will build up far slower than ie with chemical pesticides. Besides killing pests/diseases, pesticides also kill many beneficial insects.
Finally note that besides green pesticides, artificial chemical pesticides too are used in IPM. However, as they these can not be made at home, and have a ecological impact and finally are not well combinable in IPM as they are even less species-specific, they are not discussed here. Also, "traditional pesticides" as battery acid, cigarette butts in water, detergents, detergent solutions are not discussed either, again as they have a large ecological impact/are not species-specific.
- Biological pest control
- http://attra.ncat.org/pest.html - Pest Management Website from National Sustainable Agriculture information Service (ATTRA)
- http://www.sare.org/publications/insect.htm - Manage Insects on Your Farm: A Guide to Ecological Strategies - PDF book
- Pest Library - Help With Pest Identification