More attention has been given to insects as “pests” than is warranted by the evidence. Many species of native bees and flies pollinate crops, a process essential for some fruit and seed formation. Beneficial insects may also serve to suppress the development of harmful pest populations. Organic growers require a “whole system approach”– replacing external chemical inputs with an understanding of how biological resources on the farm can be utilized and encouraged to promote insect suppression.
Peter, Darren and Paul Horne relate their personal experience with controlling difficult pests using a biological approach. Skip over the first 2.5 minutes of this video to get to the gist of how Peter Schreurs & Sons control Lettuce Aphid using IPM approach they have been developing since 2000.
This video covers several topics, with the overall focus on organic pest and disease management. Speakers from Purdue, Ohio State University, and the University of Illinois address concerns specific to vegetable crops, including methods for managing and preventing pests and diseases.
One chemical–free way to deal with insect pests is to physically remove them from plants. As is typical of farming in general, organic pest control sometimes requires ingenuity. One practitioner, Ken Waters, has invented a handy tool to help with insect removal: the Super Dooper Beetle Scooper. The website also contains a variety of interesting current and past experiments with techniques, tools and organic inputs.
Healthy Soil, Fewer Pests
Michael Bomford, from Kentucky State University’s Organic Agriculture Working Group, makes the connection between supporting soil health and combating insects and weeds. Tillage, crop rotation, and other soil management methods can also help build strong plants and suppress pests. See Bomford's PowerPoint presentation.
Ecological system approaches, “therapeutic” approaches, and Integrated Pest Management are all described in this presentation by Kim Stoner of Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Find proceedings of a 1998 farmer/scientist conference coordinated by Dr. Stoner at “Alternatives to Insecticides for Managing Vegetable Insects.”
Insect Pest Management in Vegetable Crops
ATTRA’s document library is an invaluable resource for organic farmers, both new and experienced. The Guide: Insect Pest Management in Vegetable Crops describes the ins and outs of marketing organic grain. This report from UC Davis’ Vegetable Research and Information Center, outlines the steps a farmer should take before planting in order to be assured of the least possible pests.
ATTRA's Pest Management
ATTRA-National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service is a rich source of information on all aspects of organic farming. From the ATTRA's Pest Management site: “Pest management sometimes seems especially challenging for farmers dedicated to sustainable, low–input practices. If you’re looking to meet the challenge, this series of publications can help. These resources offer a wide array of techniques and controls to effectively reduce or eliminate damage from insects, diseases and weeds without sacrificing the good of the soil, water, or beneficial organisms.”
Beneficial Insects II (EC1579), by Robert J. Wright, Terry A. DeVries and Jim A. Kalisch at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Department of Entomology