Pest Control

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Crop hopper in onions and leeks

We had visitors at the farm Tuesday who were asking about how we, as organic growers, control pests.  We use a variety of methods, including crop rotation and soil improvement.  I surveyed the crew to see what their favourite control methods were.  Kaolin clay is sprayed on apples and other crops to distract pests.  If the pest gets the clay on them, they spend all their time grooming, and they don’t eat, or engage in mating.  Another method is to use a bacterial culture.  There is a product called Entrust, made from the bacterial species Saccharopolyspora spinosa.  The genus Saccharopolyspora was discovered in 1985 in isolates from crushed sugarcane.  According to Wikipedia, “S. spinosa was isolated from soil collected inside a nonoperational sugar mill rum still in the Virgin Islands.”  Entrust can be used to control Colorado potato beetles (CPB), but it cannot be used too much, or it will lose its effectiveness.  Marisa said the potato plants in her field were ‘skeletal’ from CPB damage.  She sprayed Entrust, and now they are recovering.  A third method is to use a barrier. One example is protect-net, which restricts pests like squash bugs and striped cucumber beetles.  Row covers also restrict pests, like flea beetles, from getting to brassica crops.  Finally, there are parasitic insects that prey on the pest larval stage.  One example is a beautiful metallic blue wasp that lays her eggs in the larval stage of cabbage moths.  I once watched her offspring emerge from a cabbage worm.  Fascinating!

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Marshall is imitating a pest trying to get kaolin clay off itself

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The white powder is kaolin clay

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This is a larval stage of a colorado potato beetle.

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If you look closely there is a white-yellow cabbage moth on this brassica plant

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This is protect-net on the side of a hoop house.  We are trying to protect the cucumbers growing in the middle field

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Northern hardy kiwis.  We don’t have a commercial crop yet…