(Marginally Effective) Organic Pest Controls

Hello Folks,

Numerous times I have been asked what it means for our farm to be ‘organic’. People sometimes assume, or use the shorthand, “you just don’t use pesticides, right?” This is not true, though when I hear that phrase I imagine the swarms of bugs taking a moment from devouring our crops to have a good laugh when they think about the organic pest controls that I try. The idea is that organic systems should avoid using pesticides and instead use other controls to prevent pest problems. Examples of these are crop rotation, using disease resistant plant varieties, and encouraging beneficial insects. However, when these break down and your population of army worms is 1.73 million past the hand-squishable threshold, there are a number of natural or naturally derived products that are approved for organic farms. Soap, for example, is a pesticide. Garlic oil is a fungicide. Approved organic pesticides typically have low toxicity (though some are quite toxic), but nearly all share the characteristic that they do not persist in the environment very long so that they are not a threat to public health or the water supply. Some farms spray everything they are allowed and some don’t spray at all. Here at Down to Earth we have only relied on a handful of treatments like soap, neem oil and corn meal tea, though we added a new one to the fold last week: clay. Some clever farmers or researchers discovered that coating a number of different crops in a layer of kaolin, a white clay made of tiny particles, can provide a physical layer of protection from some bugs. Our enemy du jour is the stink bug, which uses its long proboscis to drink out of our tomatoes like its enjoying a slurpee. The kaolin seems to have been working thus far, and it is pretty affordable. However. Now I have lots of amazingly delicious sungold cherry tomatoes that look like they have been rolled in baby powder. Who would buy those? Well, you we hope! The clay is completely harmless, of course. (In fact some people are biologically enticed to eat it: check out the definition of geophagy). It washes off easily and does not affect the quality of the fruit. It does remind you, though, that your farmers are doing their best to keep the their food and their little patch of earth as healthy as possible!

Our amazing Sungold tomatoes covered in kaolin clay

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One Response to “(Marginally Effective) Organic Pest Controls”

  1. Erin Says:

    Hey, i am really interested in getting involved in organic farming. If you need volunteer help, i am a willing body that just wants to learn. Please let me know. Thanks!
    Erin

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