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 Tips – Spring 2011 Minimize

Ecological Pest Control Methods

The New York Times reports that Mark Van Horn, director of the student farm at the University of California, Davis, grows wild (rather than domesticated) sunflowers around a tomato and sweet corn field as habitat for lady beetles and parasitic wasps. Likewise, USDA researcher Eric Brennan found that planting 5 to 10 percent of a lettuce field in the Salinas Valley with alyssum attracts hoverflies, which lay eggs on the lettuce. The fly larvae then eat the lettuce aphids. And lygus bugs, which deform strawberries, can be trapped in alfalfa beds planted between each 50 rows of berries. The bugs are then vacuumed from the alfalfa. Still other research in California showed that organic potato soils had more of a potato beetle larvae-killing fungus than conventional. (“Farmers Find Organic Arsenal to Wage War on Pests,” by Jim Robbins, The New York Times, Nov. 29, 2010; www.nytimes.com/2010/11/30/science/30farm.html?_r=1)


Roll Rye at 50 to 75 Percent Flowering

Cereal rye used as a cover crop is planted in the fall, killed in the spring, and left to decompose in the same fields where soybeans and other cash crops are later planted. Instead of mowing rye, many farmers flatten it by attaching a rolling, paddlewheel-like cylinder with metal slats to a tractor and barreling over the rye, tamping and crimping it into a mat. Rolling rye with a roller-crimper uses less energy than mowing, is faster and needs to be done only once a season. Unlike mowing, it also leaves rye residue intact in the field, forming a thick mat that can suppress weeds better. When USDA researcher Steven Mirsky planted "Aroostook" and "Wheeler" rye in test plots in Pennsylvania, he found that rolling the rye when it reached 50 to 75 percent of its flowering state consistently killed the rye. (“Finding the Right Time for Rolling Rye,” by Dennis O’Brien, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Agricultural Research, Nov./Dec. 2010; www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/nov10/rye1110.htm.)


    

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