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(BASIC) General Observations July 5 & 6


D–Vac General Observations July 5 & 6

Kern County BASIC Pilot Program

General observations to all growers:


Unfortunately, the adverse effects of pesticides on biological control have not been publicized as compared to the emphasis placed upon the effects on birds and fish, i.e. Silent Spring by Rachael Carson, and on mammals, and even on humans, i.e. Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber. This is despite the devastating effects on biological control and the effects of pesticides on the whole chain of events that causes pesticide use to proliferate.

The main purpose of this demonstration of transitioning to EBPM is to provide knowledge about biological control through basic principles illustrated by on–farm experiences that we try to present with minimum of scientific population jargon.

We fully realize that monitoring the progress of biological control is essential to successful EBPM, but the necessity for adaptation to the biocomplexity of the ecological and climatic forces are only partially controllable. The time–line of the crop growing throughout the season is more like a river, open–ended, flowing from the mountains to the ocean. The insect populations are adjusting to their plant–food– sources, the cotton and adjacent crops slightly different every where you look and every time you look. The beneficial parasitic insects and predatory mites are chasing their food source (the pests). Food drives all of these biological control systems and success comes from fine tuning the growing processes of the plants, the plants, the feeding pests and their natural enemies from planting until harvest.

There is no "quick–fix" or recipe for biological control. Successful implementation of EBPM comes from decisions made from weekly monitoring of the progress made by "good bugs" as well as the pests throughout the plantscape (the whole of the cotton crop and adjacent crops that make up their habitat). We emphasize satisfactory growing of the crop using optimum water and nutritional "inputs" s that create the least "interference" to natural enemies. Broad–spectrum pesticides interfere the most; however, widespread use of herbicides is not good for biological control.

The road back from farm addiction to living with pesticide residues resulting from conventional chemical controls is illustrated by examples of real on–farm experiences. EBPM stresses cultural and biological control enhancements and reliance upon "soft pesticides" only when necessary. Pesticides are only applied when necessary to protect the crop as determined by knowledge based observations ("good bug" /pest) population sampling. Most often, when a little more time is needed for the beneficial insects to overcome the pests, a least toxic alternative "soft" pesticide will buy the time needed for biological control. Knowledge about the insects and their biological controls takes most of the fear out of tolerating minor pest problems.

Eradication efforts deter biological control. When we raise our tolerance for insect life, maintain and/or improve cultural practice, increase beneficial insect colonizations of beneficial insects, pesticide use can be greatly reduced. Pesticide use overall and at times, some places and on certain crops, they can be terminated entirely. We can learn to farm and garden with a natural enemy complexity dominated by biological controls.

When needed, habitat enhancement plantings providing refuge for diverse sets of natural enemies adjacent to market crops positioned to move into the newly planted when the first pests arrive. This practice proven by English Hedgerows for centuries, growing food without the need for pesticides for Saxons, Normans, Brittans and the English until these refuges were destroyed less than a hundred years ago. This change to monocultures in farming practices single–handedly destroyed biological diversity and made it not only easier, but necessary, to apply conventional chemical controls. Recent changes in the farmscape, such as the increase of animal feeds, alfalfa, field corn, safflower, melons and the dairy industry, make it very feasible to implement EBPM in cotton production.

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