Identifying and Controlling Pest “Hot Spots”
Farmers today face erratic climates, a reality that seems to be worsening year after year rather than improving. With this, a new set of challenges rises to the surface, unfamiliar forms of pest pressure being one of them. We can combat this with smart farming technologies, using them to collect data from every part of the field to closely monitor potential threats, understand their impact, and determine the best approach for protecting our crops. Using the precise application of safe and effective crop protection practices that are both sustainable and economically efficient protects our farms from possible outbreaks that could be detrimental to our overall success. By understanding our field's data and implementing the correct treatment methods, we can shield ourselves from anticipated pest problems and create a foundation that's easy to rely on.
The Bhang Aphid was a tremendous threat to Mendocino County farmers last year. If these little creatures made their way into your garden, you probably noticed a reduction in your plants' vigor, a slowdown of their growth, and wilting or yellowing leaves. These pests also produce "honeydew," a sugar-rich secretion from munching on plant saps, that encourages fungal growth like powdery mildew. And because these critters typically reproduce asexually, identifying their population early on is absolutely essential to controlling their population. They can multiply quickly and become a massive outbreak before a farmer even realizes they're there. Crickets, grasshoppers, slugs, and mites are a handful of other pests that love the cannabis plant. While sustainable and organic IPM can help push their colonization away, recognizing the problem early on is key to keeping their population in check. The use of predatory insects such as Ladybugs, Green Lacewings, and Assassin bugs can help a farmer's efforts, and the proper placement of sticky traps can remove pests like aphids and whiteflies from the garden, but preventative sprays still tend to be a necessary addition.
The first step to controlling pest outbreaks is to identify the pest "hot spots" in the garden before they have the chance to spread throughout the entire crop. Our farms are mapped out into small quadrants that help us monitor the pest pressure in particular areas. We then use these sections as a guide when we perform our daily scouts for possible pests in the garden. Portable wireless microscopes connected to our iPhones help us determine if pests are present while working in the field. When coupled with data-collecting technology, we can clearly define a "hot spot," then apply our organic pesticides only to that specific area, resulting in a decreased amount of products used, and money saved in our pockets. This site-specific organic pesticide application process is an example of "smart-spraying," a method we employ on the Hive Mendocino farms. It not only decreases operating costs, but it also saves us time by reducing the number of sprays we have to apply to the plants.
Taking proactive measures is necessary when controlling pests in the garden. We regularly go around and select random leaves to view through a microscope, looking for lurking critters on its surface. The damage from these pests isn't often noticeable until the problem is large-scale, so proactive measures are necessary to keep their population under control. Because we know sprays are unavoidable if we hope to maintain the high quality our cannabis is known for, we took measures to ensure we are held accountable for only applying sustainable and safe remedies. Our Simply Clean certification from The Cannabis Conservancy displays just that.
Do you have sustainable pest control tips you'd like to share with our cannabis community? We would love to hear them. Drop your advice in the comments below!
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Photo by: Chris Butler