Kitchen Garden Guides

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Organic Pest Control

I woke up early and sat in bed reading. Then I began to feel a bit annoyed, then sick and then very irate. I have the latest Green Harvest catalogue. Although it comes from Queensland, from time to time I have ordered their bulk seeds, for sprouting and for growing microgreens, since these are less climate dependant than growing in the garden. This morning I had made it to the last 10 pages, a full 1/4 of the catalogue, called Organic Pest Management.

Please tell me why all the focus is on killing things….. and why people need to be controlling pests, in an organic garden. I will tell you why; its all about making money and it makes me sick. Bottles and packets of stuff to spray all over your garden is not organic…. And please tell me what is organic about the plastic bottles these products are packaged in. It a similar lack of integrity in shops calling a vegetable grown organically in Peru and then transported to Australia, organic!

The Green Harvest products are infuriating! For example:Yellow Sticky Roll Trap….to mass trap flying insects. What!! That is madness!! And Trappit Barrier Glue…to prevent insects from climbing into the tree. Oh, this is like the stupidity of using a disinfectant (even organic eucalyptus oil) on your kitchen benches, killing all the bacteria; as if all insects and all bacteria should be eliminated from the earth….

….In his book The Diversity of Life, renowned entomologist Edward O. Wilson discusses the importance of insects and land-dwelling arthropods in the ecosystem, saying that "if [they] all were to disappear, humanity probably could not last more than a few months." Most other life forms, like amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals would also become extinct because of the domino effect that would occur in the food chain.

Insects perform a vast number of important functions in our ecosystem. They aerate the soil, pollinate blossoms, and control insect and plant pests; they also decompose dead materials, thereby reintroducing nutrients into the soil. Burrowing bugs such as ants and beetles dig tunnels that provide channels for water, benefiting plants. Bees play a major role in pollinating fruit trees and flower blossoms. Gardeners love the big-eyed bug and praying mantis because they control the size of certain insect populations, such as aphids and caterpillars, which feed on new plant growth. Finally, all insects fertilize the soil with the nutrients from their droppings

Many insects are herbivores, or plant-eaters, which makes them primary consumers. This abundance of primary consumers provides protein and energy for secondary consumers, known as carnivores. There are many secondary consumers, such as spiders, snakes, and toads that could not survive without feeding on insects. Tertiary consumers eat other carnivores; for example, bears and chimpanzees eat insects as well as other animals….

From: River Deep

There is one very simple answer to reducing the amount of damage to food grown in your garden. Biodiversity. Look at nature and do your best to copy it. Are insect controls needed in the rain forests of Tasmania…. or the outback of S.A.…. or the tropical rain forests of Qld? Nope. They are full of biodiversity, providing habitat for an ecosystem full to overflowing with insects, who, along with a myriad of birds and other wildlife, all keep each other in balance.

Stop trying to control the life in your garden. Instead, encourage it and it will reward you with beauty, food and time to relax. Make your food garden a wonderland of diversity; a place where you can sit, watch and hear nature and know that you are providing for, not killing, life on earth.


africanaussie said...

Funny, I got the catalogue this week and was thinking the same thing....

farmer_liz said...

have to agree with you, once you get the balance in your garden right, you shouldn't need any sprays. I got sucked in bought some pyrethrum once, but I've never finished the bottle! Fruit flies are a challenge in QLD though, especially when they start to eat you tomatoes...

Gavin Webber said...

Great post Kate. I totally agree. The last two years, I have not used any 'organic insecticides' in the garden and the patch still flourishes. I must admit to picking off the odd cabbage moth caterpillar to feed to the chooks, but other than that, I leave well enough alone. Nature knows best.

Gav x

PS. I thought I posted this comment this morning, but it looks like you deleted the original post?

Kate said...

Gavin, I had trouble with the slide show, which I originally did on blogger and had to re-publish this post via live writer so lost your earlier comment. Even now the slide show is very bad quality.... what do you use for slide shows?

Anonymous said...

Tried twice to post but couldn't get it to stick. Third time lucky!
In general, I agree that spraying anything is not the way to go, whether the label says organic or not.
There are two areas that come to mind where this presents a problem.
I think a market gardener or polyculture farmer might find life extremely difficult without sprays. I'm not saying it can't be done, after all, there were market gardeners and farmers long before sprays became available. I just think it would be very difficult.
Another problem is introduced pests. A classic example is the Green Vegetable Bug, Nezara viridula. There are no predators for this little beastie and it is very destructive. It is devestating in my garden, worse even that the Queensland Fruit Fly.
On a small scale, in a backyard say, you can walk around with a bucket and collect some pests, enough anyway to get a yield. I'm not at all sure how you handle introduced pests on a larger scale. No doubt a predator will evolve over time but what do farmers do right now? I don't know the answer.
By the way, I use exclusion in preference to sprays, and Green Harvest sells a good range of exclusion products.

Deborah Cantrill said...

I have to agree Kate. You only have to listen to talk-back gardening on the radio to know that most callers want to get rid of things. As a biodynamic gardener the first question most people ask me is 'How do you get rid of.....?' My answer is always I work with life - everything interacts with everything else to form a dynamic system which balances itself out.
I think the problem goes further both so called'organic' (because they are not whether certified or not) farmers and gardeners have simply swaped a conventioal product with an 'organic' produt. This goes for fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides,and herbicides. Along with systems which are still monocrops are allowed to be called organic.
I feel extremly disapointed in this as I and others put so much of of our time and energy into developing a reliable certification system only to see it continually lower the standards to allow more and more unnecessary manufactured inputs to be used. Which comes down to more sales for chemical companies (as they manufacture most of these products) and more $ for the certification bodies that give these products credablity.
Our farm as operated sucessfully for 30 years without any of these inputs> So it CAN be done.