Integrated Pest Management – or IPM for short – sounds big and combative, but in reality, it is a basic concept that has become a part of the fabric of agriculture that helps farmers limit pest populations (insects, weeds and diseases) and prevent pests from creating havoc in our crops without relying completely on chemical pesticides. In the world of potatoes, Wisconsin growers were early pioneers of biologically-based IPM and are recognized nationally for their adoption of advanced approaches for managing pests in their crops.
What is IPM and how is it done? As it’s name implies, IPM integrates a wide range of tactics that hold pest populations below damaging levels. These can range from biological and cultural approaches at the local level to regionally-based systems that predict and geographically track pest locations and numbers. It is a basic approach where you get to know everything there is to know about your crop’s pests – where do they come from and when, how do they behave and why, what are their vulnerabilities – and then determine which practices can be best used to exploit these pests and prevent them from entering their crop or causing damage after they do. IPM integrates basic practices such as moving crops in the landscape to make them harder to find, scouting to determine which pests are where, physical barriers to foil entry, tillage and smother crops to limit weeds and predicting pest development with more advanced practices, such as varietal resistance, advanced technologies to diagnose problems quickly and accurately, and using ecologically based processes and geo-referencing to track populations across broad regions. All of these fit under the IPM umbrella, and pesticides are used only when necessary to prevent damage. (more…)
We all want the good guys to win, right? Well, it is even more important in agriculture where there are good guys with wonderful names like assassin bugs and pirate bugs, which regularly seek out, kill and eat the bad guys that are eating our crops. This is how nature keeps the balance between good and bad, and our potato and vegetable growers have learned nature’s tricks; they are masters at manipulating the system in their favor. This concept is called biological control, and it uses a broad range of beneficial species that occur naturally in diverse ecosystems to attack pest species that feed on crops, keeping them at levels which do not harm the crops.
This process of one organism regulating populations of another is found throughout nature from microscopic bacteria to alpha predators, like wolves. If we look with inquisitive eyes, we can see this in action in our very own back yards. In production agriculture, biological control can be seen at a much larger scale. It has become a vital component of the farmer’s toolbox that can be used in tandem with other approaches to keep pest populations below damaging levels. The whole system is called Integrated Pest Management; the goal is to use pesticides only as a last resort when pests increase to damaging levels. (more…)
Do you know what caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s and 1850s?
Did you know these problems caused massive hunger, distress, and resulted in mass emigration from the region for many years?
Did you also know that this disease can still be a concern if not properly managed?
And that the fungus which caused the Irish potato famine is still attacking! It can cause serious problems for potato, tomato, eggplants and other solanaceous crops today. Phytophthora infestans (appropriate name since it “infests”) is the cause of potato late blight; it is a fast moving, community disease, which growers (as well as home gardeners and garden center managers) must take seriously and manage properly to ensure a healthy, adequate food supply. (more…)
It’s the growing season in the Central Sands and a new crop is emerging; carrots are peeking up amid the oats, a “nurse crop” that is used to protect the delicate young carrot seedlings from damaging winds and all of us have an expectation for another great crop. Although most Wisconsin farmers are keeping an eye on the carrots, they are also concerned with what’s happening in southwest Arkansas. Why? (more…)