The Art And Science Of Plant Pest Control

Pix3WE would like to live in a world without suffering: no war or diseases or insect pests!

However, our beautiful and lush garden and flowering plants, like the hibiscus make tempting targets for several insects who have no regard for what they do to the plants. These insects pierce the leaves and suck the sap out of them, sometimes spreading viral diseases as they feed. Or they lay their eggs in flower buds, making the buds fall off before opening. Or after sucking the plant-sap, the insects excrete the remains all over the leaves, making an unsightly mess.

Or… well, you get the idea. These insects are referred to as pests, and pests they truly can be! So what should you do if you think your beloved plant has some kind of pest infestation.

You must first figure out what pest you have. Each pest is treated differently, and no one pest control product will eliminate all the possible pests your plant or garden could have. If you go out and buy some kind of general pest control product, you may well end up stressing your plant and your wallet without even discomforting the pest that has infected your plant. If you buy the wrong pest control product, you could even end up aiding and abetting the pest infestation by stressing the plant and improving the pest’s ability to get a foothold.

Just as mammalian predators pick off the weakest  of the herd, so insects will overcome the weakest of the crop.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to deal with insect pests. However, it can be difficult to decide which pest control approach to use.  One says “control” because you can never eliminate any pest entirely, even if you eliminate the pests completely from your own garden, they are everywhere in the world around us. Our goal is to control them by limiting their number to the level where they do no visible harm and do not multiply out of control.

Control techniques include both chemical and non-chemical approaches. Chemical approaches can be organic (these pesticides are safer for humans and the environment but still need common sense precautions) pesticides made in the lab that are usually more effective but require following directions so as not to be harmful to the applicator. Non-chemical approaches are also referred to as organic, and do not involve any type of pesticide.

Should you use the most effective means (usually synthetic pesticides) immediately when noticing a problem? Or should you start with the safest but most labour – intensive approach first and check out the results before bringing out the “big guns?” The answer can depend on your own situation if you’re ill or especially sensitive to environmental factors, you probably want to stay away from synthetic pesticides. If you are healthy but very busy and don’t have much time or patience to deal with pests, then, by all means use the most effective products available. If you are an “organic only” person, there are suggestions that work, but may take persistence.

The organic philosophy

The aim of all organic practices – permaculture, biodynamics, natural farming – is just to reduce and ideally to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals that are harmful to humans, animals, plants and the planet, but to understand the processes of nature in order to participate, rather than to interfere.

This means a change in thinking. Instead of thinking monoculture on a massive scale, think biodiversity over a small area. Instead of thinking of insects as pests, think of them as part of the natural order, with the plant-damaging insects kept in check by predators, instead of thinking of perfection in ornamental and edible plants as blemish free, know that nature is not driven by glossy advertisements. Think always of the way plants live without interference from humans.

Aim to provide all plants with the conditions they need. Aim for both lateral and vertical diversity, by matching plants with the conditions that suit them at every level, from ground-covering creepers through mid-high shrubs to the top of the canopy. A stable garden does not contain impossibly difficult plants from quite different climates and conditions. Nor does it grow a huge number of similar plants in isolation from all others. And apart from the procedure of planting and replanting, a stable garden is not routinely dug or hoed. Rather layers are allowed to build up in the way a rain forest floor accumulates. Mulching and layering duplicates the processes of nature.

A stable garden in which natural pests control is practiced will always have a constant, but manageable, supply of pests providing food for a constant number of predators. Both are accepted as part of the ecosystem. Not all insects are bad —- some are predators, some never cause plant damage, and others never build up their numbers.

Companion planting is a component of the stable garden, but it is not a cure-all. On its own, it is ineffectual: it doesn’t rid the garden of pests, but it does aid diversity and stability. Through releasing different scents, through utilizing different levels, and by occupying different garden spaces in certain combinations, companion planting can attract or repel, specific insects.

In general, plants that are grown in clean surroundings and are properly fertilized and regularly (but not too frequently) watered, are less likely to be attacked by pests and diseases.

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The Art And Science Of Plant Pest Control