1. What does “growing organically” mean?
Growing organically means farming without the use of synthetic inputs. It is a method of growing that uses products that have been approved by organic resources such as the Organic Materials Review Institute, Washington State Department of Agriculture, CCOF, Oregon Tilth and others. Growing organically embraces the highest definition of integrated pest management (IPM) by utilizing a production system that includes the incorporation of cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promotion of ecological balance and conservation of biological diversity.
2. What are some benefits of using organic practices?
- Higher market prices for organic products
- Customer confidence in organic practices-not treated with synthetic pesticides
- Increased soil conservation and fertility
- Support for a healthy soil biodiversity of microorganisms, fungi and bacteria
- Reduced residual pesticides and synthetic chemicals Reduced environmental impacts (e.g., pesticide runoff, soil erosion, worker exposure)
3. What are some of the most important steps in developing a strong IPM protocol?
- Support overall plant health by including fertilizer, soil amendments, enzymes and microorganisms.
- Trap and monitor to become aware of pests within the grow operation.
- Determine thresholds to create an appropriate treatment plan.
- Utilize all available cultural control methods to eliminate as much infestation as possible.
- Based on infestation, begin with a knockdown or by introducing a biological control agent. Biological control agents include generalists such as Green Lacewings (Chrysoperla rufilabris) and specialists like predatory mites, such as Phytoseiulus persimilis.
- Continuity is key to successful control.
4. How do you choose the right biological control?
A standard protocol is used for determining which predatory or parasitoid insect works best in each environment. By acknowledging the type of pest(s), the growing conditions (temps, humidity, light hours), the location (indoors vs. outdoors, greenhouse vs. hoop house, etc.), the space being used to grow (square footage or number of plants) and the level of infestation, we match each grower to the appropriate biological solution specifically tailored to his or her needs.
5. What are some organic practices that can easily be introduced into an indoor cultivation operation?
Be proactive! Cultivate a healthy growing medium. Take a holistic approach to your operation; no part of the plant is more important than the others, this includes the roots. Healthy plants help prevent infestations. Make applications of beneficial insects and mites prior to or at the onset of infestation. Create an environment where beneficial insects and predatory mites can thrive and reproduce.