Crop Talk: 6 Alternatives to Using Pesticides

Written by DJ Stacey

1.  Hand Picking is the most effective method to control pests. It is also the most labor intensive. Hand picking also allows the grower to inspect individual plants and assess their needs. Pests can either be crushed or collected for disposal at a later time.

2.  Barriers and traps are physical and mechanical methods of control:

A.  Sticky traps are cardboard sheets covered in glue.  They trap pests that land or walk on them and also provide a good way to monitor insect populations.

B.  Newspaper and plastic sheeting can be used to cover soil. This stops burrowing insects from digging down to lay eggs and recent hatches from emerging.

C.  Row cover is a lightweight woven material that allows water, sunlight and air to pass through while providing a physical barrier to insects, snails and slugs.

D.  Slug traps can be made by burying a glass jar or cup then half filling it with beer. Slugs will climb in and die happy.

3.  Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.) is soft sedimentary rock that is light and powdery when crushed. To people it feels like talcum powder but to small insects it is like being rubbed in broken glass. It is very effective for controlling snails, slugs, caterpillars, flying insects and beetles. When exposed to D.E., most pests die within 3-5 days.

4.  Trap crops are intentionally planted to lure destructive insects away from the main crop and reducing damage by giving pests something they prefer to eat.

5.  Baccillus Thuringiensis (Bt) is a naturally occurring bacteria that is used for insect control. It is harmless to humans, but deadly to many species of mosquitos, caterpillars and beetles. There are many strains of Bt, each specific to certain pests. Bt used to control one type of insect will have no effect on insects it is not meant to harm.

6.  Crop Rotation simply means alternating different crops in the same space from year to year or season to season. If one type of crop is grown in the same place year after year, pests will use that space as a breeding ground. Crop rotation can slow or disrupt the breeding cycle of harmful insects.