- Education and Training: mentoring
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
The organic farming ethos values a whole-systems approach to preventing and managing crop damage due to insect pests. For many in the public, organic farming is perceived to be pesticide-free. However, when damage to valuable crops rises to a concerning economic threshold, farmers, including EarthDance’s farmers, resort to organic-approved pesticides. The expense of pesticide use, the time needed to apply it, and the possible negative ecosystem effects of spraying make these tools of last resort.
At EarthDance, squash bugs, army worms, cabbage loopers, and tomato horn-worms caused our farmers to spray Azera two times and, Dipel (bt) five times in 2016. By the time spraying occurs, pest infestation has already depleted the quantity of the crop that can be sold at its top value. Spraying pesticides also has a deleterious impact on morale for an organic farmer, who takes pride in avoiding the use of harmful substances, even bio- rational pesticides. Organic farmers need information and education about a full spectrum of solutions to pest pressure, especially techniques such as farmscaping that can add value to farming operations.
EarthDance proposes to increase the effectiveness of its pest-management efforts through floral farmscaping to attract beneficial insects, and the use of insect netting as an exclusion method. EarthDance will integrate flowering perennial plants into our vegetable and orchard production, and use insect netting in the fields and high tunnels. Utilizing these methods will demonstrate strategies that save farmers’ time, money, and boost their enjoyment of farming. An additional yield can be obtained through the adoption of these methods: increased farm-scape aesthetics. With the growing popularity of agri-tourism, there is economic value in providing farm guests with a visually delightful experience.
EarthDance will intersperse perennials that have proven highly attractive to beneficial insects amidst our fields, in orchard “strips” and a centrally located 3000 square foot plot. EarthDance will devote 12,300 square feet to floral farmscaping. By attracting insects such as lacewings, ladybugs, hoverflies, parasitic wasps, tachinid flies, and more, EarthDance will benefit from their predation on pest insects.
Boosting the diversity and population of beneficial insects is one approach to low-input insect control. EarthDance will use insect netting in tandem, to exclude pests from its open-field and high tunnel beds. EarthDance, like many organic farms, has used floating row-cover as an insect barrier. However, remay is not ideal for this task. Row cover is prone to tears that reduce its effectiveness as a pest barrier; EarthDance hears from other farmers that the insect netting is more durable. Row cover is designed to insulate plants for season extension, which complicates its feasibility for pest-exclusion during summer. Finally, row-cover is opaque, potentially resulting in an “out of sight, out of mind” effect. Insect netting enables farmers to view plants beneath its cover, and protects without insulating.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Increase the effectiveness of EarthDance’s whole-farm approach to pest management and teach beginning farmers permaculture IPM techniques such as floral farmscaping and the use of insect netting to reduce dependence on organic pesticide.
- Benefit the environment by increasing the diversity of native plant species at EarthDance, which is projected to also increase the diversity and population of beneficial insects at EarthDance, and magnifying these environmental benefits by encouraging replication these plantings at other sites.
- Enable farmers to maximize profits by determining if floral farmscaping and use of insect netting reduces the need to expend time and money on pesticide application, and if a higher yield of crops free of pest-damage may be obtained.
- Create the social benefit of improving the aesthetic value of EarthDance through floral farmscaping, which may increase personal satisfaction for farmers and members of the public who visit the farm.