Organic pest management may include the use of pheromone traps, the release of beneficial insects, the use of trap crops, and other organically approved techniques (see Rules Related to Pest Management, next page). An organic pest killer that is also moderately toxic to most mammals and is found naturally in the seeds and stems of some plants. Use with caution near ponds or lakes, as rotenone is extremely toxic to fish. Kill leaf-eating caterpillars, beetles, aphids and thrips in vegetable and fruit crops.
However, give it some time, as it is a slow-acting chemical that requires a few days to work. One of the most commonly used botanical insecticides in the U.S. UU. It is non-toxic to most mammals, making it an especially safe option.
This insecticide is a powerful and fast-acting deterrent, even in low doses. After exposure, most flying insects fall immediately, but they don't always die. Some manufacturers mix pyrethrin with more deadly solutions to ensure insect death. Sure, caterpillars can be cute, but they can also wreak havoc on leafy crops.
Bt is the shortened version of Bacillus thuringiensis, a natural bacterium that causes pests to get sick when ingested. Spray on the leafy vegetables that caterpillars eat and Bt will kill them from the inside out. Because it is only harmful to eat it, this is an extremely safe organic pesticide for preserving beneficial insects. Spray out of direct sunlight (which will reduce its effectiveness after several hours) and repeat every 7-10 days until you no longer need it.
Bt products may include genetically modified strains, so be sure to check the packaging to verify the contents of the formula. Because of its growth retardation effects, neem oil works best on young insects and fast-growing insects, such as pumpkin bugs, Colorado potato beetles, and Mexican bean beetles. Also effective on smaller leaf-eating caterpillars and aphids. Best of all? If you have excess neem oil, you can spray it on vine crops that are at risk for powdery mildew, as neem is slightly effective in preventing this plant disease.
If you object to the use of chemicals, albeit organic, around your vegetable crops, consider spraying food-grade diatomaceous earth on your garden bed. Diatomaceous earth is best used in dry cases and becomes less effective when wet. While it also targets some indoor insects, it will kill Japanese beetles, cutworms, flies, ticks, crickets, slugs, and other species. Unfortunately, it will kill beneficial insects, so be careful.
Certain minerals can also be used to control pests. Sulfur is sold as a liquid, wettable powder, or paste and will control mites, psyllids, and thrips. Use on vegetables such as beans, potatoes, tomatoes, or peas. While not toxic to humans, it can irritate skin and eyes.
The disadvantage of using sulfur is that it has been shown to damage plants in dry climates when temperatures exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is incompatible with other pesticides. They are an incredible store for the organic gardener. If you use diotamceous soil, make sure it is food grade. They also carry a large number of beneficial insects.
Nothing stops insects like a physical barrier, and one of the best for vegetable crops is the floating cover in rows. This lightweight, non-woven fabric lets in light, air and water, but prevents insects from feeding and laying eggs. Row covers work great on vegetables, broccoli, tubers, and any crop that doesn't need bee pollination. They will also protect seedlings from cold temperatures of up to 28°F or lower, depending on the thickness of the fabric.
Speaking of barriers, an electric fence is one of the only safe ways to keep Bambi, Rocky Raccoon, and other animals away from your prized edible garden. While repellent sprays can work for a while, animals are smart enough to get used to the spray and move around anyway. If deer pressure is low, use a single strand of wire for electric fencing 30 inches above the ground. In regions with large populations of hungry deer, use several strands, a few feet apart.
The key is to install the fence early in the season, before the animals find their orchard or fruit trees. You can teach animals to avoid the fence with a peanut butter bait. After a few harmless blows, they will probably avoid the area completely. Unlike its heavier, toxic cousin, inactive oil, horticultural oil is a light, fine-grade oil based on petroleum or vegetable that coats insect eggs, larvae, and adults and suffocates them without damaging the foliage.
Use oil in the garden to kill aphids, leafhoppers, mites and whiteflies. A few drops of oil on the tips of developing sweet corn cobs will control the cornworm. Oils pose little risk to both gardeners and desirable species and integrate well with natural biological controls. They also dissipate rapidly by evaporation, leaving little residue.
However, oils can harm plants if applied at excessive rates, on sensitive plants, or on particularly hot (above 100°F) or cold (below 40°F) days. Incorporating natural pest control measures into your growing scheme is a good start, but there are several artificial options available to the grower to keep pests at bay. A multitude of organic pest control methods are available, including chemicals, minerals and strategic gardening techniques. Cultural control methods are the oldest methods of pest control and begin with the way you, as a grower, conduct the gardening business.
This is a good option for those who do not yet have significant pest infestations and want to start reducing the number of potential pests. However, there are a number of organic pest control methods that can be used without endangering bee populations. Most organic farming professionals focus on preparing soils with a high organic content using materials such as fertilizers and amendments that are considered to be of natural origin. While crops can attract unwanted pests, you can use this same theory to keep unwanted pests away from desired crops.
It is highly recommended that readers buy a good encyclopedia of organic gardening or look for reputable Internet sources to consult more organic -icides, as this list is too extensive and changing to catalog them all. However, how much better or healthier a method of pest control is depends on how toxic it is, not whether the source is organic or artificial. The best control methods include spacing plants generously so that the soil dries quickly and removing mulch where these pests like to hide. These examples of organic pest control show that harsh chemicals are not always needed to control pest populations.
Chemical control options are varied in terms of their method of application and their ability to alleviate pests. By focusing on natural processes, growers use pest control methods, starting with the least toxic ones and gradually amplifying pest control needs if problems persist. There are a number of organic pest control techniques you can use to keep your plants safe and keep pests at bay. Of these six critical steps, it is key to decide on a control method (appropriate management technique) to minimize pest disturbance, and will be discussed in detail throughout this column.