One of the most common questions that comes up when switching to organic farming is how to deal with pests. In this lesson, we will tell you what the leading pest control methods are used in organic farming, how effective they are, and how farmers in Russia operate to save crops.
To protect against pests in organic farming, as explained by the director of the St. Petersburg Ecological Union Yulia Gracheva, about 20 substances of animal and plant origin are allowed. You can also use the waste products of microorganisms and pheromones placed in special traps to combat insect pests. Permitted pheromones include 10 traditional substances, including copper and sulfur.
The list of permitted remedies in organic farming of substances fits on two pages. In the state register of approved pesticides for ordinary farms – a list of 700 pages.
In organic agriculture, protection is based primarily on selecting resistant varieties, crop rotation, cultivation methods, and protection from natural enemies. For example, the predatory bug Perillus destroys the larvae and adults of the Colorado potato beetle. Also, biological processes are actively used, in particular, solutions of microorganisms.
Overseas fellow organic farmers from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture recommend a comprehensive pest management system with six components.
Crop rotation avoids the spread of the disease. Crop change deprives pests of food and leads to their disappearance. However, it is nevertheless necessary to completely remove the culture and its plant debris in case of severe infections. Diseased plants must be composted at high temperatures.
Planting dates will help to avoid pests. For example, many larvae live in crucifers and melons. Planting late can reduce pest damage.
The distance between plants also guarantees good conditions for the growth of crops. It increases their resistance to diseases and pests.
Also, experts in organic farming advise creating living conditions for beneficial insects that destroy pests. For example, spiders eat any type of beetle and ground beetle and Colorado potato beetle larvae. Parasitic wasps lay their eggs directly in insect pests, destroying them. Beneficial insects prefer small flowers with nectar rather than pretty dry buds. Yarrow, buckwheat, monarda, comfrey and asters are good for increasing the number of beneficial insects.
2. Coordination of actions
Farmers usually know what diseases and pests they will have to face. Experts recommend starting the fight when insects are most vulnerable.
For example, you can count 150 days from the moment when the first mole that landed on an apple tree in the garden fell into a pheromone trap. By this time, female moths who escaped from the trap will begin to lay eggs. Baking clay or horticultural oil will help to destroy this pest.
3. Monitoring and detection
Regular monitoring of the state of plantings allows you to detect a disease or pest in time and solve the problem. Plants with discolored, twisted leaves that show bumps and holes may be signs of disease. Also, help in monitoring insect traps.
If you find an affected plant, the next step is to understand how many plants are affected.
It is not always easy to understand what caused the damage to plants. Consultation of a specialist or farmers who are farming nearby can help here.
5. Taking action
Pest and disease control methods in organic farming fall into three categories:
- cultural instruments
- biological control methods
- physical control.
Pesticides can be used, but only after consultation with the certification authority and only as a last resort.
Cultural tools include removing damaged plants and setting up traps that attract pests.
Biological control methods are beneficial organisms that destroy pests and thereby control their population.
Physical insect control involves installing shields around young apple trees to prevent tree trunks from rotting, as well as traps and fences to keep pests and animals away. This also includes collecting beetles by hand.
Bed covers protect plants from bugs, onion fly larvae and cicadas. The coating prevents them from laying eggs in the planted vegetables.
“A lot of pest control methods depend on the size of the area. The Colorado potato beetle in the country, for example, can be collected by hand and destroyed. On large areas, it will not work with your hands, but there is a technique that shakes the beetle into a special bunker, after which it is destroyed. You can spray the plantings with a solution of laundry soap. You can add some vegetable oil to it – this method is very good for fighting aphids, for example. The oil clogs the aphid’s proboscis, and it dies. There are special preparations that are approved for use in organic farming. For example, these are preparations based on bacteria. When spraying crops, these bacteria penetrate the Colorado potato beetle, for example, and begin to multiply there. Then the beetle dies. With a cabbage flea, you can simply fight with regular watering – the water washes off the flea for a while,
According to the rules of organic farming, pesticides can only be used when all other methods of control have been tried and did not work.
A list of the most common synthetic and natural pesticides includes:
- bacillus thurmgtensa is a bacteria that lives in soil. It is effective against some insects.
- Pyrethrums – effective against many insects
- insecticidal soap – potassium salts
- diatomaceous earth – composed of silicon fossils and some surviving marine microorganisms
- vegetable products – horticultural oils used against aphids, ticks, whitefly and thrips.
“If a farmer is certified organic / bio / eco-friendly, he must follow the standards against which he is certified. All permitted methods of struggle are spelled out there. Checks the farmer for compliance with the standards by the certifier issuing the certificate and badge. We are certified by Ecocontrol, our standards are developed by NP Agrosofia, of which we are a member. These standards were developed based on the Swiss organic farming standards and are among the most stringent in Europe. In the fight against pests, we use watering, soap/oil. Unfortunately, to date, only one drug on the Russian market has been approved by our certifier – the drug is called Liquid Smoke. This year we will use its first year to combat the Colorado potato beetle, cabbage flea, caterpillars.
Experts also argue that it is futile to look for a universal pest control method for organic farms. In each case, the approach will be special, and it depends on the location of the sites, the condition of the soil, the climate of the region and a host of other details. This idea is confirmed by the experience of the Alekhovshchina eco-farm, where the Colorado potato beetle simply does not fly from one field to another.
“If we talk about the Colorado potato beetle, then our fields are located very far from each other, and the Colorado potato beetles simply do not have time to move from one field to another. We also use a five-field crop rotation. If this year there were potatoes in the field, then next year there were cereals, a year later – herbs, then legumes. The main purpose of crop rotation is to recharge the land,” said Evgenia Zhukova, general director of the Alekhovshchina farm.
Avoiding the use of synthetic pesticides ensures the organic quality of the products. As the lesson shows, the use of pesticides replaces prevention, planning, and the use of acceptable control methods. As the head of the HiPP company, which conducts organic agriculture in Poland, Stefan Hipp, noted, industrial farms have a plan for the use of pesticides against pests, as well as a plan for the introduction of synthetic fertilizers, and an organic farmer must always monitor his land and make many decisions based on the current situation.