Pest management is an important factor to consider in any growing operation, big or small. Integrated pest management (IPM) is just a series of preventative steps used to control the majority of pests in a certain area. This reduces pest damage and helps maximise yields.
With integrated pest management, the emphasis of the plan should be on control of pests not eradication or a complete wiping out of a particular type of pest. It is important to remember that wiping out one pest can lead to one pest being wiped out and another pest building up as a result.
The stages to consider when making a IPM plan are as follows:
Cultural controls are preventative methods which are usually physical tasks, to ensure crop sanitation, such as removing weeds, dead material from beds, cleaning the secateurs prior to pruning and disinfecting of seed trays.
Monitoring is inspecting plant material and inspecting any damage. This should be recorded or noted. A good understanding of pest life cycles is beneficial as you can prepare preventative methods before plants become overwhelmed with damage.
Here at Ballybeg Greens, we use mechanical controls such as sticky fly traps. These traps are sticky sheets of yellow plastic used to attract insects. The traps are suspended from the roofs of the polytunnels. Ideally the traps are to be 20cm above the crops. The traps can also be used for visual inspection which allows you to see the types of pests are present.
Biological controls are beneficial bacteria, micro-organisms or micro-insects that can be added to the soil or growing area as a pest control. Examples of these are nematodes which can be used to control vine weevils in nursery growing.
When using preventative methods of pest control, you should primarily use cultural controls as it has less damage on the balance of the ecosystem.
Here at Ballybeg Greens, we keep our beds weed-free and, with the correct spacing between plants, this ensures good airflow. We also use sticky traps to reduce the number or pest populations in our growing tunnels and we use crushed egg shells to create an abrasive surface to help prevent slug damage. Removal of dead or diseased plant matter as quickly as possible is important to keep the growing areas clean.