Your crops are your livelihood. Nurturing and protecting your plants throughout their lives is part and parcel of farming. Unfortunately, crops in California face numerous threats from pests, including certain insects, diseases, and fungi. Some people think “pest” and automatically assume “insect,” but that’s a crude and inaccurate oversimplification. After all, we wouldn’t be able to grow anything without insects (thanks, pollinators!)
What threatens your crops?
Certain insects, diseases, and fungi can cause severe crop loss. California’s Department of Food and Agriculture maintains a current list of pathogens and insects threatening agriculture, the environment, and the state’s economy. You can check out the significant pest insects and diseases that the department actively monitors and read about the description and range of each. For instance, numerous counties in Southern California have documented a phloem-inhabiting bacterium that causes Huanglongbing or Citrus Greening. Some pest insects listed have been eliminated in California, but continual monitoring is essential to ensure these pest insects do not establish a foothold in the state.
This is of particular concern with global trade that accidentally introduces non-native pest species into other countries. Despite countries’ best efforts to control possible contaminants, numerous species have slipped through the cracks and established themselves in the United States. You might have heard of insects like the Emerald Ash Borer, which was accidentally introduced and has destroyed populations of ash trees on the East Coast. While the borer hasn’t reached California, it’s important to be aware of invasive pests in your area. Climate change also contributes to new threats as insect and plant species’ ranges shift north.
Adopting Integrated Pest Management practices to protect your crops
Fortunately, there’s an incredible toolbox of management techniques to protect your crops from unwanted pests and diseases. The gold standard of crop protection is called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is a “science-based decision-making process that combines tools and strategies to identify and manage pests,” according to the United States Department of Agriculture. It’s a sustainable approach to managing pests that incorporates biological, cultural, physical, and chemical tools to preserve human health, minimize environmental and economic risks, and successfully protect crops. Around the world, IPM has gained widespread acceptance and is mandatory for some government agencies.
According to the University of Nevada, the Principles of Integrated Pest Management are:
- Identify pests, their hosts, and beneficial organisms before taking action
- Establish monitoring guidelines for each pest species
- Determine an action threshold for the pest
- Evaluate and implement control tactics
- Monitor, evaluate, and document the results
IPM can be successfully applied to pest insects, diseases, weeds, and vertebrate pests (e.g., mice). IPM is used on field crops, orchards, urban environments, residential properties, managed environmental areas, and golf courses.
It’d be impossible to provide an overview of crop-specific IPMs, as each crop has its recommended best practices. Fortunately, the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources breaks down everything you need to know for every California crop. Their resources include a year-round IPM program you can implement with information on seasonal actions, the timing for management practices, how and when to monitor pests, a complete list of pest insects and diseases that affect specific crops, a pesticide application checklist, and support tools to help you determine what practices to use and when. In general, chemical controls should be used as a last resort, as it’s the most destructive to human health and the environment, including water systems and the pollinators that make your crops possible. Fortunately, every crop-specific IPM strategy walks you through exactly how and when to apply chemical pesticides.
System-based foundations for IPM
The principles of IPM are the same for conventional and organic farms. In an organic system, the goal is to design your crop production system so that pests are controlled by natural enemies and damage is kept to a minimum. A “plant-positive” approach with healthy soils, sufficient crop rotation, and support biodiversity manages the entire system for healthy processes, which helps prevent pest insects and diseases from gaining a foothold.
If you are a conventional farmer, there’s still a lot you can do to increase biodiversity on your property and help nature do the work for you. When your land only has one type of plant growing, it leaves it susceptible to invasion by fast-spreading non-native plants and pest insects. Supporting biodiversity will attract natural predators and help prevent invasive species from establishing themselves on your property.
Talk to the Experts at Fruit Growers Supply
For over a century, Fruit Growers Supply has provided growers with tools and advice to produce the food that California needs. Our state has a proud legacy of being a center of gravity for the country’s organic food, and we try to live up to that heritage every day at FGS. No matter what farming practices you embrace, you can be sure FGS will provide you with the prices and services you need to make your operations successful.
If you’d like to know more about how Fruit Growers Supply can be of service to your farm, use the contact form below to get in touch with us, give us a call at one of our supply centers, or come on in! Our experts are here to connect you with the solutions you need.
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