Sustainable Pest Control
Weeds and bugs can be a farmer’s worst enemies. Gold Dust and Walker Brothers farm are finding new ways to fight old pests.
Controlling pests, whether it be insects, weeds or fungi, without resorting to conventional chemicals is one of the larger challenges to organic farming. Weeds can infiltrate a field and spread disease to plants, just as insects can, so keeping them under control and minimizing their impact is important. Luckily, farmers have more options now than they have before.
Gold Dust and Walker Brothers have developed an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. We scout the fields to discover which insects or weeds are causing problems, determine what’s an acceptable level for that pest to exist and then take action accordingly. Some of the options include scheduling irrigation at certain times or using biological control strategies, such as using a natural predator to an insect or taking care of weeds before they begin to go to seed. We also look to using varieties of potatoes and other crops that are naturally resistant to a specific pest.
Another sustainable option we’ve began to use is green manure, which not only amends the soil but also naturally fights pests. The use of a cover crop can encourage predatory insects to eliminate harmful ones while not allowing weeds to infest farmland. The end result is using less herbicides and pesticides to keep pests under control.
Sometimes the use of a cover crop can’t contain a specific pest or our IPM plan may indicate that the best way to control it is with the use of a pesticide. For conventional farming, pesticide options are abundant, but for an organic crop the solution also needs to be equally “green” or the field can lose its organic certification for several years. In those situations, we turn to organic insecticides and herbicides.
With more people turning to organic farming, the future of ecological pest management is wide open. We look forward to seeing what the future brings and implementing those solutions that are both effective and economically feasible.