Human management

A different approach to pest control | Weekend magazine

Cucumber beetles — those little black and yellow insects that are hitting cucumber plants statewide right now — will strike fear into the heart of any vegetable grower. Although the insect itself does not cause excessive damage to the plant, it is a vector of a disease that causes cucumbers to wilt and die, and there is nothing a grower can do to prevent the plant to die once it is sick. But while farmers have cost-effective and effective methods to reduce infestations of common vegetable pests like the cucumber beetle, these tools are generally not suitable for home gardeners. These backyard growers often have few options but to worry.

“I find that people get very panicked the second they see either damage to plant parts or an insect they don’t recognize,” says Carolina Lukac, garden education manager at Vermont Garden. Network, a non-profit organization based in Burlington. which works to support community and hobby gardeners.

“People are really alarmed by it,” Lukac says of detecting a pest or pest damage to garden plants. “I find people are rushing to conclusions: ‘It must be that bug, I have to kill it.'”

But, say Lukac and Vic Izzo, an agricultural entomologist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Vermont, there’s another way to think about garden pests.

“We can wait a second, breathe deeply and understand,” says Lukac. In the end, she says, it’s not that complicated. Home gardeners can pay attention to the situation and wait to assess whether the damage is really affecting the growth of the plant or if it is simply a cosmetic problem. Unlike farmers, who make decisions based on revenue from their produce, home gardeners can also assess whether they can tolerate certain pest damage in the garden.

Home gardeners who discover a new potential pest or damage to their plants may have questions, including, what is this plant? What is this insect? Is it really the insect that does the damage or is it something else? And is it really a problem?

“Gardeners need a little encouragement to ask themselves these questions,” says Lukac.

Izzo’s work includes partnering with Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford and an off-campus fruit and berry farm owned by UVM to conduct weekly surveys of current pests, to make this information available to growers around the world. ‘State. Integrated pest management, or IPM, he explains, is a system that fruit and vegetable growers use to determine the thresholds for applying different pest control techniques to their plants. In part, it is used to reduce the amount of chemical pesticides used, based on what is essentially a decision-making tool.

“People hear about it in agriculture,” says Izzo, “but the decision-making for gardeners is different.”

The first hurdle is knowing the pest you are dealing with. Izzo says that many times gardeners will think an insect is causing damage, when half the time it’s actually a disease and not an insect damaging fruit or vegetable plants.

“It’s really about knowing what the damage is, so that we can fix it,” says Izzo.

Luckily, for home gardeners feeling the pressure from pests, the duo will team up from 4-6 p.m. Thursday, June 23 at a community garden in Montpelier to talk pest control with home and community gardeners and farmers. The event is the first in a series of workshops and pizza nights coordinated by the Northeast Organic Farming Association. The workshop, titled “Dealing with Pests: Tips and Tricks for Advanced and Novice Gardeners,” is open to everyone, though pre-registration is required and the cost is $25 for NOFA members, 35 $ for non-members or free for Blacks and Natives. people or people of color.

The series includes topics on climate change and agriculture, raising goats and other small ruminants, growing and preparing herbal teas, basics of seed saving and more. Pizza tours include fresh pies from NOFA-VT’s “famous wood-fired pizza oven,” as well as tours of the farms hosting the events.

“This workshop next week kicks off our series of summer events,” NOFA-VT’s Zea Luce says of the upcoming workshop with Lukac and Izzo. “This includes both on-farm workshops and our beloved pizza nights, across the state. Everyone is welcome to learn, grow, gather and connect on farms and gardens.

The community garden in Montpellier is a great place for this workshop on pest control because, as Lukac explains, there can be more pest pressure when you have more people gardening in the same place, and using all different crops and pests. management techniques.

Izzo and Lukac will share information on common pests for different categories of plants, such as potatoes or alliums, so attendees can know what to look for, based on the plants in their garden. There will be plenty of opportunities to share tips, tricks and techniques that have worked for them, including discussing plant and soil health, transplants versus no-till and other preventative measures, as well as management tools, including a cucumber beetle lure that uses pheromones to attract and trap insects. Lukac experimented with some that she bought on and found them to work well.

The pair will go beyond tips and tricks, however, to also ask attendees to reconsider how they think about pests. They will ask participants to ask themselves: what is a pest? And what does this mean for gardeners?

Izzo says, in part, it’s about changing the way we think about these bugs. “We often think of them as pests, and I like to convince people that they’re just herbivores, and if we do everything we can to keep them away from our plants, we’ll also keep the good bugs away.” Instead of creating an insect-free garden, it’s about learning strategies for reducing the impact of insects that show up, as well as strategies for living with them.

“It’s a different approach,” adds Lukac.