Since we first opened, South Shore Organics has made a point of offering local produce from local farms. Organic certification can take several years and extensive paperwork; for a small farm or orchard the certification process simply might not be in the cards. One area in which this is particularly relevant is with local tree fruit such as peaches, plums, nectarines, and apples. With so many local orchards bursting in the summer and fall, it’s important to find fruit sources that we feel reflect our commitment to clean, safe food—most of the local orchard fruit we offer customers comes from farms that use a system referred to as Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. An ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests, the intention of IPM is to choose pest control methods that minimize risk to both human health and the environment. Rather than simply eliminating the pests by saturating trees and fruit with pesticides,
Armed with information, farms can create conditions that are unfavorable for the pest, ultimately building—and sustaining—a system. IPM allows for a healthier and more sustainable farming system than that employed by large-scale conventional agriculture and its ubiquitous application of toxic pesticides. Conventional agriculture takes a “pest negative” approach, where the ultimate goal is to eliminate the offending pest, at a time when pests are becoming resistant to the very pesticides designed to eliminate them, this often means stronger applications…and therefore more environmental damage and toxicity to consumers. In stark contrast, farms using IPM approach the system from a “plant positive” perspective, recognizing that a pest management system builds the foundation for healthy farms. There are four widely recognized practices in the employment of IPM on farms…
Biological control: The goal of biological control within IPM is to suppress pest populations below the levels at which they can damage crops. This is done in several different ways, such as microbial controls which introduce insect pathogens to manage pest populations, and providing habitats for species that eat insects which would otherwise eat plants. Each biological control requires balance—between herbivore/plant, disease/host, and predator/prey—in an effort to keep the whole ecosystem going, while still protecting crops.
Habitat manipulation: Similar to the biological control discussed above, habitat manipulation takes it one step farther by introducing predator species into an agroecosystem to help keep pest populations under control. While this can be a very effective method of IPM, research indicates that maintaining a balance of populations is crucial for success.
Modification of cultural practices: Manipulating the structure and practices of a farming system can result in an environment which is unfavorable for pest reproduction, favorable for natural enemies, or both. It can also increase plants’ ability to withstand damage from pests. Agroecosystem structure modification such as field borders, natural vegetation, practices like crop rotation, plant spacing, tillage, mulching, companion planting and more can all work toward keeping insect damage in check.
Use of resistant varieties: One of the basic premises of IPM is that healthy plants are more resistant to pests, and one helpful tool in a pest management system is resistant varieties. From seedling to fruit, disease resistant plants can help to reduce crop losses across the board. While not completely immune to afflictions like blight, plants with greater immunity to these diseases will remain healthier through the growing season, and therefore more likely to survive an infestation of pests.
Of course, none of these stands alone. A healthy farm using IPM may choose any and all of the methods listed above—and perhaps several others—in their attempts to keep the agroecosystem in balance.
“IPM Tactic: Biological Control” Penn State Extension: College of Agricultural Sciences 2015
Kumar, Yogi, and Jagdish. “Habitat Manipulation for Biological Control of Insect Pests” Research Journal of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences Nov 2013
Linker, Orr, and Barbercheck “Insect Management on Organic Farms” Center for Environmental Farming Systems
“What is IPM?” University of California Integrated Pest Management Program 10 July 2014