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Controlling Pests at the Sebastopol Energy Garden

June 6, 2008

Submitted by joshpuckett on Tue, 2008-06-03 13:24.

Pest control at the Sebastopol Energy Garden does not involve the use of any commercial organic or chemical pesticides; rather the encouragement of natural pest controlling systems. A variety of plants have been intentionally planted to encourage beneficial insects and deter derimental insects from vulnerable crops. Other plants have been planted as trap crops, that is they attract pests to lure them away from other crops. By planting trap crops we can create dense aggregations of pests and manage them with non harmful sprays such as soapy garlic and cayene pepper water or leave them be and hope for predatory insects to find them and aggregate around the trap crops as well.

Such was the case with the two plots of Canola that were planted in the Energy Garden this year. Canola is often planted for the oil rich seeds that it produces but also as a trap crop and beneficial insect attractant. While the plant is preferred by aphids, a trait that we observed this winter, the flowers of Canola attract adults of the following species of hoverflies (Syrphidae): Allograpta obliqua (Say), Sphaerophoria spp., Syrphus spp., and Toxomerus spp. Larvae of all of these species are predators on aphids. In addition adult lady bugs, soldier beetles, and a variety of predatory wasps are attracted to Canola due to the dense populations of aphids that inhabit it. By planting Canola in the garden this year we not only lured herbivorous aphids away from other brassica crops that we grew, we increased the populations of predatory insects in the garden.

In addition to growing plants that deter herbivourous insects and attract predatory insects we have provided habitat for predatory birds, snakes, lizards, frogs, and salamanders in hopes that they prey upon pests that visit the garden. Snails are also regularly captured and fed to the chickens as a source of protein and calories, and gopher traps are set and monitored.

By encouragin ecological pest control as opposed to using chemical and organic pesticides we improve the ecological health of the garden without the risk of harming our crops and ultimately ourselves. Rather than removing all insects from the garden ecosystem, a charecteristic of most pesticides, we are able to combat only those that are detrimental to our crops.

Two and a half million tons of commercial pesticides are now applied
annually in the United States. Because of pests ability to develop
resistance towards chemical treatments, pesticide effectiveness
decreases and our dependence upon them increases with each spraying.
Production of these
chemicals now accounts for 6% of US agricultural energy consumption as
the industry continues to grow.

Caroline Cox lists ten reasons why not to use pesticides in the Journal of Pesticed Reform:

1. Pesticides don’t solve pest problems. They don’t change the conditions that encourage pests.

2. Pesticides are hazardous to human health. Every year, enormous quantities of pesticides known to cause significanthealth problems are used in the U.S.

3. Pesticides cause special problems for children. For their size, they consume more food and drink than adults, and both of these can be contaminated with pesticides. They play in ways that increase their exposure. Also,their growing bodies can be particularly sensitive.

4. Pesticides often contaminate food. The widespread use of pesticides in agriculture means that pesticides are frequently found on a variety of common foods.

5. Pesticides are particularly hazardous for farmers and farmworkers. There are no comprehensive systems for tracking pesticide illnesses, and research shows that farmers and farmworkers face risks of both short-term poisonings and long-term illness.

6. Pesticides are hazardous to pets. Pet poisonings occur frequently, and exposure to lawncare pesticides is associated with a higher risk of cancer in dogs.

7. Pesticides contaminate water and air. Monitoring studies find pesticides in almost every sample that is tested.

8. Pesticides are hazardous to fish and birds. Enormous quantities of pesticides already known to EPA to cause problems for fish and birds are used in the U.S.

9. Pesticides are immensely profitable for the corporations who manufacture them, yet these corporations conduct or sponsor the tests used to determine their safety

10. Pesticides have too many secrets. Where are pesticides used in our communities? When? How much? What’s in them? We almost never have good answers to these questions.

For more information check out these sites…

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