Bugged Out – Part 1

 In SCIENCE

Almost everyone has heard of folks using ladybugs or praying mantises in the garden.  Farmers release them in their garden if a pest problem begins to show.  They work fairly well, but it’s really just scratching the surface as there are methods available that are far more effective.  What I’m talking about is something known as integrated pest management or IPM. Before we delve in, I want to give a little information on integrated pest management, and the use of these controls in the garden.

For every gardener, whether growing 1 or 1,000 plants, IPM should be a cornerstone of their growing practices.  Cannabis is no stranger to pests or molds, and some can be near impossible to deal with if the plants become affected by either.  IPM is defined as a well-rounded program that is based on prevention, monitoring, and control by a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties – basically, the use of beneficial bugs and plants (and their environment) to control and prevent bugs that could damage or kill a crop.   IPM is an “eco-system based” strategy in which the farmer introduces and maintains a beneficial insect and/or biological control populations in their grow room, greenhouse or even field.  The farmer fosters this ecosystem by maintaining a hospitable environment for the insects and biologicals.  Temperature, humidity, and food sources are the most key elements involved in consideration of environment.  The implementation and maintenance of a pest management program, should eliminate the use of harmful pesticides, thus creating a clean and safe product for the end user (see an older post – ‘Poisonous Pot’ for more info).   There are many companies out there that supply these sorts of bugs to growers, and a quick Google search will yield many trusted sources. 

A grower should constantly be monitoring the populations of insects to ensure beneficial population levels are where they should be.  IPM is all about control, not complete eradication.  The belief is that elimination of an entire pest population is near impossible, usually costly, and involves harsh chemicals.  Most IPM principles are rooted in the belief that there are acceptable pest levels.  The goal is to keep pest populations in control by using a comprehensive and multifaceted list of beneficial insects in your agricultural or horticultural setting.  IPM isn’t all about insects.  It also uses what are know as biological controls.

Almost all IPM programs follow the same practices and principles.  There are many different growing variables; type of crop, where the crop is being cultivated, indoor or outdoor, if out, geographic location, type of growing media used, and type of pest targeted, to name a few.  The University of California has arranged the following list of major components:

  1. Pest identification
  2. Monitoring and assessing pest numbers and damage
  3. Guidelines for when management action is needed
  4. Preventing pest problems
  5. Using a combination of biological, cultural, and physical/mechanical and chemical management tools.
  6. After action is taken, assessing the effect of pest management

IPM is not just a practice, it’s a philosophy, and is one that takes time to implement and carefully monitor.  Once the gardener has found their balance, they can completely eliminate the need for chemical sprays in their garden.  It’s becoming vitally important to adopt these practices.  Due to rampant pesticide use, pollinators are dying off at staggering numbers, humans (and other animals) are experiencing negative health effects, and our water supplies are even experiencing an impact.  This is something that should and can be avoided.  Call or contact your local cooperative extension office or look up scholarly reviewed articles to help take the steps in the right direction to make positive change.

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