Woodleaf Farm Insect Management System Table 1

Organic Agriculture May 02, 2016 Print Friendly and PDF

This article is part of the Woodleaf Farm Organic Systems Description.

Table 1. Woodleaf Farm Insect Management System

Strategies and Tools

Implementation Details

I. Landscape-level design

 
Design fields to favor biological control agents Farm is surrounded by native oak/pine forest, isolated from other fruit and vegetable farms. A patchwork of 1- to 1.5-acre crop fields is separated by native forest on 90% of field margins (Fig. 2: Farm Fields & Soils Map).
Practice temporal rotation Rotation is weak, as peaches are more than 50% of total acres. Rotations include apples, pears, and vegetable crops, but fields are sometimes replanted to peaches. 
Design for spatial diversity Fields are bordered by tall native oaks. Within fields, tall perennial tree crops are mixed with shorter annual vegetable crops and perennial groundcover. 

II. Soil-building for insect pest suppression

 
Add organic soil amendments  High-carbon/low-nitrogen organic residues are surface applied annually: mowed living mulch residue, chipped branch wood, and yard waste compost.
Reduce tillage Tillage is practiced only when fields are brought into production or are renovated.
Optimize quantity and quality of soil organic matter (SOM) Organic residues vary in carbon content and ease of decomposition. Soil organic matter increased from an average of 2.4% in 1982 to an average of 5.1% in 2014 (Soil Fig. 1).
Increase below-ground plant diversity A living mulch is planted beneath and between crop rows. The living mulch contains diverse annual and perennial species with different rooting types.
Optimize soil potassium levels See Soil Fig. 16. [link to Soil figure 16: "Soil potassium trends, 1982–2014" in Soil section] Potassium is supplied by the foliar mineral mix and organic residues.
Match nitrogen supply with crop need Many applied residues gradually supply nitrogen due to their high carbon:nitrogen ratios.
Optimize soil calcium levels and cation balance Gypsum is applied each spring at 250 lb/acre.

III. Habitat-building

See also Natural Enemy Habitat.
Create diverse below-ground habitat  A living mulch is planted beneath and between crop rows. The living mulch contains diverse annual and perennial species with different rooting types.
Create diverse above-ground habitat at the landscape level Diverse native habitat (forest, grassland, and riparian) is maintained on 90% of field margins. Most roads on the farm are covered with grass or perennial living mulch. 
Create diverse above-ground habitat at the field level The living mulch contains diverse annual and perennial species. Between 30 and 50% of total acreage is planted in cover crops. Diverse fruit species and cultivars are interplanted with patches of vegetable crops. Row-by-row and within-row mixtures of fruit crops include 50 peach, 50 apple, and 12 pear cultivars (Disease Table 2).
Use blooming winter and summer cover crops The living mulch bloom sequence extends nearly 11 months, from early February through late December. Some species are allowed to flower all season due to selective and reduced mowing.
Provide winter cover and refuge for beneficial organisms The living mulch provides year-round habitat. 
Install grassy beetle banks Rather than installing beetle banks, Carl Rosato maintains undisturbed grassy areas in the living mulch between crop rows. 
Manage living mulch mowing to optimize predator/parasite populations  Selective and reduced mowing of the living mulch all season, and especially in spring, enhances ground-dwelling predator populations and provides pest control.

IV. Monitoring and identification of insect pests/beneficials

 
Scout crops and monitor for pests and beneficials  Scouting for insect and disease pests and beneficials is done every 5 to 14 days.
Identify pests and beneficials Scouting for insect and disease pests and beneficials is done every 5 to 14 days.
Keep records Spray records have been kept since 1998. Pest incidence records have been kept since 2012.
Use monitoring data to inform management decisions Sprays are applied only when pests reach a threshold, based on monitoring.

V. Supplemental inputs

 
Use selective organic insecticides Bt and Spinosad (Entrust) have been used to avoid killing beneficial insects (Insect Table 2).
Reduce organic insecticide sprays  Insecticide use decreased from the 1990s through 2014 (Fig 1).

This table is part of the Woodleaf Farm Organic Systems Description.

Table of Contents:

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.