Pests of agricultural crops include weeds, insects, pathogens and nema-todes. This book is focused mostly on managing insect pests, but it addresses all crop pests to some degree, because no pest or category of pests can be addressed in isolation. The ecological pest management strategies presented here will contribute to overall ecosystem health.
We first lay out the principles behind ecologically based pest management. Then, we describe strategies used by farmers around the world to address insect problems within the context of their whole farm systems. A full section is devoted to how you can manage your soil to minimize insect damage. Flip to Chapter 5 to learn about beneficial insects you can put to work for you. Photos of some beneficials and pests can be found on pages 50-54.
Aleiodes indiscretus wasp parasitizing a gypsy moth caterpillar.
CovER CRop In Lancaster County, Pa., Steve Groff built a farming system based on cover crops, inten- sive crop rotation and no-till. Although he designed his crop and vegetable farm without targeting specific pests, Groff and the scientists using his farm as a real-world laboratory have documented significant benefits in pest management, including:
system deters pests
Increased populations of beneficial insects in cover crops Reduced populations of Colorado potato beetles in tomatoes Delayed onset of early blight in tomatoes Minimal to no aphid pressure on any of his crops Reduced cucumber beetle damage in pumpkins
Tolerable levels of European corn borer, thanks to releases of the parasitic wasp, Trichogramma ostriniae
Reduced weed pressure, although monitoring and managing weeds are still a top priority on his farm
Those benefits come at some cost, however. Groff spends more time managing his complex system to ensure that cover crops are seeded and killed at the right time and to scout for weeds. Moreover, he monitors soil temperature because no-till and cover crop residues delay soil-warming in the spring.
Not all pest management problems have been solved, either. Spider mites still attack Groff's tomatoes, particularly in dry years, while slugs sometimes hide under cover crop residues in wet years. Nonetheless, consider the numbers. Groff has cut pesticide use by 40 percent and seen soil or- _r weii.umv of maryland ganic matter increase by almost 50 percent with a 10 percent net increase in yield averaged over all crops. "It's working for us," Groff says.
Groff's system is described in greater detail on pages 60-63.
Steve Groff's cover crop of cereal rye and flowering rapeseed provides multiple benefits compared to neighboring plowed fields.
Workers harvest celery next to a strip of bachelor button flowers planted to attract beneficial insects.
Throughout the book, we present specific examples of successful pest management strategies. While some examples may fit your farm or ranch, most are crop- or climate-dependent and will serve mostly to stimulate your imagination and help you better understand that while every system is unique, the general principles of ecological pest management apply universally. Use this book as a stepping-stone to develop a more complex, more diverse system on your own farm. Look for "Tip" boxes throughout the book for specific suggestions.
This book does not address the multiple ecological benefits of further diversifying your farm or ranch by integrating livestock into the system. If you also raise animals, consult other information resources about the management and benefits of integrated crop-livestock systems (Resources, p. 104).
In short, nature has already provided many of the tools needed to successfully combat agricultural pests. This book aims to describe those tools and present successful strategies for using them to manage insects on your farm or ranch.
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