This week we all got to see some great beneficial organisms in action! On the farm we have all kinds of organisms doing their thing: insects, bacteria, fungi, yeasts, birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, animals, human beings etc. Some are what we call ‘good guys’, some are ‘bad guys’, and some are more neutral. But we are still learning tons about what all these organisms do! It is kind of obnoxious to judge them according to our needs, but we do. I figure most organisms are ‘good guys’, or beneficial.
The first round of buckwheat cover crop (a beneficial plant) was ready to be mowed, but before mowing, we checked out what was living on it. At first, the buckwheat had aphids on it (a pest). Then the ladybird beetles (a beneficial insect) moved in because they eat aphids. In a way, the aphids are beneficial because they provide a food source for ladybird beetles. The ladybird beetles (or ladybugs) reproduce by laying eggs, they hatch and the larvae emerge. Problem is, they look like little alligators and we might mistakenly think they are bad guys. Good thing is, the larvae are voracious feeders and consume soft-bodied plant pests like aphids and mites! They are highly prized and we want to encourage them. Then they pupate and look a little like Colorado Potato Beetles (a pest) before they become ladybird beetles (a beneficial). We have to be careful to respect all the organisms and assume they are beneficial before we squish them!
The farm is such a complex and dynamic ecosystem, and I include us human beings as part of it. Our job as farmers is to allow the beneficials to do their jobs, and just try to provide an environment that keeps things from getting out of balance.