IPM for Vegetable Gardens

>>Bob Westerfiled: Integrated
Pest Management, or IPM, basically is looking at all
of the many important aspects of growing – from fertilizer to
proper irrigation to controlling insects with some of the safest
methods first possible, disease control and cultural problems
that might exist with vegetables. So it’s an overall approach,
or holistic approach, to growing vegetables in a safer
manner that produces a healthier crop and
a more marketable crop. Let me begin with insects. When it comes IPM, it’s
certainly very important when you’re growing vegetables to
know what insects are out there. We always hear about, it seems
like, the damaging insects like squash vine borers and squash
bugs and other type insects like that they can cause
damage to the crop. But it’s important to remember
that over 95% of all the insects out there, and even in our
vegetable garden, are good guys or we call them
beneficial insects. So it’s vital and important
to be able to identify correctly the insects that you’re
seeing your garden. You certainly don’t want to
go out with chemical controls wholesale spraying your garden
knocking out the good guys. By encouraging and also by
protecting the beneficial insects that are out in your
garden, you go a long ways toward controlling
the damaging ones. That being said, at some time you
may have to come to the point
where you decide “I have to put a control out, be
it a chemical or otherwise.” And then what we encourage in
IPM management is to select the safest alternative first
and work up from there. In the case of insects, it might
be in the idea of using some type of organic insecticide
something that could potentially be less damaging to not only
other insects that are beneficial but in some cases
to the human population. So looking at organic
alternatives is one form of IPM where you’re going to try to
select the least environmental damaging control to try
to take care of the insects that are causing
you problems. We can also look
at trap crops. Trap crops are basically
planting something that will attract the damaging
insects away from your potential vegetables. Leaf-footed bugs, stink bugs and
other insects like that can be very damaging to your crop but
by using certain trap crops we can avoid this by kind of faking
them out and sending them over to a different area where then
we can come back and control them. When it comes to beneficial
insects there are certain ways that you can
increase the population. We already know that there’s
a lot of them naturally out there, this is a good thing. But in order to kind of
encourage more beneficial insects into your garden,
consider a few things that might help. One is planting a crop
that will attract them. Colorful flowers like marigolds,
zinnias, and other type colorful blooms will bring beneficial
insects into your garden and have them available for when you
need them to attack the bad guys that might be on
your vegetables. Also being very careful about
spraying with chemicals, particularly early in the
morning when many the beneficials and pollinators are
flying around, can be critical to not harming our natural
beneficial population. Disease also is a major
issue when it comes to growing vegetables. Because we live in a hot humid
environment, we have many different diseases
that can take hold. Many of these are soil-borne
pathogens; others are spread and disseminated through
wind and insects. By growing the plants as healthy
as possible, by good fertility, by good irrigation practices
and plant selection, you can go a long ways
to preventing disease. When a disease is detected,
it’s important to get it a correct diagnosis of what
exactly it is and what are the best
control procedures. Again, you can sometimes look
at organic alternatives but along the disease line
it can be fairly limited. Diseases sometimes can be
controlled simply by removing the affected foliage or lifting
the plant out and removing it from the garden site allowing
the other plants to thrive. There are times, however,
that some specific diseases may need the application
a fungicide or bactericide and it’s always best to make
sure you know you’re using the proper product on
the selected vegetable. Whether using insecticides or
fungicides, also remember to read the labels and to allow the
proper waiting period time on the label before you
harvest that vegetable for sale or for consumption. Another real problem that
we see in many of the vegetables gardens
are cultural practices. These are things that we
don’t necessarily relate to insect or disease but they
could be as a result of improper planting or other
natural phenomenon like cold temperatures
or extreme drought; sometimes these things
are controllable and other times are very
difficult to control. It really helps when you
have a good understanding of what causes
these things. Often times many of the cultural
problems that we see out there whether it be something called
blossom end rot – that’s very common on tomatoes and peppers
they get a black leathery covering under the bottom
blossom side of the plant – many of those things are
directly related to nutrition or irrigation
practices. Again, having really sound
cultural practice management in your vegetable garden
goes a long way to controlling all of the problems. Nutritional problems; knowing what you’re looking for
when you see a plant that’s turning yellow – you know, could
it be a water problem, could be a nitrogen problem – it takes a
little time but looking a good photographs can be very helpful
in determining whether or not you’re looking at something
that’s truly nutritional deficiency or is it may be
lacking that nutrition because the plant does not have enough
water or even the pH or the alkalinity-acidity of
the soil may be off. These are very important
things that need to be looked at when it comes to looking
at all the cultural practices. It’s always a good idea to
rotate your garden each season. By this what we mean is not
planting the same family of vegetable in the
same location each year. By rotating different families
of vegetables out from one location to another, we go a
long ways towards preventing many things from building
up in the soil whether it be nematodes, soil pathogens
and diseases that would be very specific to the same
type of family if it was planted there
year after year. So crop rotation, as we call it,
is an important component for all aspects of disease,
cultural problems and, to some extent,
even insect problems. No matter what the problem in
your vegetable garden is, it really helps to be there
frequently to scout the garden to go in early in the morning
and to see you how the pollination is going as far as
insects flying around, to be careful about applying
insecticides early when you may actually be killing the
pollinators but also to be there frequently enough to see when
a disease first begins to arise or even a
damaging insect. When you’re scouting through
the garden, it’s really critical that you look at all
parts of the plant. We often are always attracted to
looking at just how the fruit looks – the pepper, the bean and
so forth – and that’s important but look at the bottom of the
plant, the top the plant particularly on the undersides
of the leaves. Many times insects will hide in
the undersides of the leaves because it’s a protective
barrier from the sun and also potential sprays that
you may be putting on there to try to
control them. Also if you have the ability to
do it, go out in the garden late at night – after the sun’s down
for a couple hours – and walk around in the garden with a
flashlight to see what else may be lurking out there; perhaps
snails and slugs and other things that are very specific to
nighttime activity that could be in the garden and you would
not have otherwise detected them during the daytime. So when looking at IPM
approaches, it’s looking at the entire picture
rather than just saying “I think I have an insect
problem, let’s go get the most potent
chemical and spray.” So it’s looking at taking care
of the plant, providing nutrition, doing a soil test to
have the pH adjusted properly, irrigating – potentially
irrigating with drip irrigation – to keep the foliage dry and to
cut down on instances of disease; providing good cultural
practices like weed control, keeping the competition down. Also planting and spacing
the plants properly so that there’s good air circulation
in there to prevent build-ups of insects
and disease. All these things can go a long
way to preventing problems. By following sound IPM
practices, you’ll be able to have a more successful
garden and a heavier harvest when the time comes. Captioning provided by
University of Georgia
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Department of Entomology

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