Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Grasshoppers – How to Protect Your Garden and Farm with Eco-Friendly Tactics

When conditions are right, grasshoppers can unexpectedly become a big problem for growers. But what are your options to effectively control outbreaks?

Let's explore some effective strategies for managing grasshopper populations in your garden or farm without relying on harmful pesticides. In this article, we'll cover:

  • The lifecycle and habits of grasshoppers that make them pests.
  • Natural and eco-friendly methods to control grasshopper populations.

Grasshopper Life Cycle and Their Impact
Grasshoppers are closely related to crickets and katydids. What sets them apart from their jumping cousins is their ability to quickly grow into pest status and destroy forage and crops in farms and gardens. A large part of their threat stems from their eating habits; they can consume half their body weight in plants each day, making them a formidable foe for any grower. 



The lifecycle of a grasshopper plays a crucial 
role in its pest behavior. 
Starting from eggs laid in soil, they progress through several nymph stages before becoming adults. This process can take a few months; the bigger they get, the more damage they do. 

A warm spring and a hot, dry summer are ideal conditions for a boom in a grasshopper population. Dry conditions limit fungal diseases that normally curb their numbers, while warm temperatures accelerate the hatching and growth of nymphs.

Understanding these aspects of grasshopper biology and behavior is key to managing their populations effectively. The sooner actions are taken, the better your chance of minimizing damage. 

Natural and Eco-friendly Grasshopper Control Methods
Several natural and eco-friendly strategies can be employed to manage grasshopper populations effectively while minimizing environmental impact. These methods not only target grasshoppers but also support maintaining the ecological balance in your garden or farm.

Azadirachtin: Extracted from the neem tree, azadirachtin acts as a growth regulator for grasshoppers, disrupting their lifecycle and reducing their ability to reproduce. It's safe for use around beneficial insects and animals, making it an ideal choice for organic gardening and farming. Research has shown that azadirachtin prevents nymphs from shedding their skin and impacts the reproductive organs of males and females. Check out AzaGuard for both repellent and control treatment. 

Pyrethrins: Derived from chrysanthemum flowers, pyrethrins are fast-acting
insecticides that target the nervous system of grasshoppers. They break down quickly in the environment, reducing the risk of long-term residue. A product like 
PyGanic is available as a spray and comes in multiple volumes for the weekend gardener or full-time farmer.
 
Nosema locustae: This naturally occurring microsporidian fungus targets grasshoppers and some locust species. When ingested, it causes a disease that can significantly reduce grasshopper populations. Typically, the spores are added to a wheat bran bait that can be broadcast into an area. The grasshoppers eat the bait, along with the spores. However, products such as NOLO Bait and Semaspore are currently unavailable. The manufacturer's factory burned to the ground, and production is extremely limited. 

Beauveria bassiana: This fungus acts as a biological insecticide by infecting and killing grasshoppers. It's applied as a spore-coated formulation with which grasshoppers ingest or come into contact with. The fungus then grows inside the grasshopper, killing it, and it's particularly useful in managing large populations. Certain strains of the fungus can be more effective on specific species. It's available as a liquid under two product names:  Mycotrol O and Botanigard ES. Or, you can use it in a wettable powder.


Garlic Spray: While research on the effectiveness of a garlic barrier spray is still
lacking, there is a 
study that suggests it not only acts as a repellent but can also kill grasshoppers.
 
Cultural Methods:
  • Prescribed Burns: Carefully managed burns can eliminate grasshopper eggs and reduce plant material that serves as food for nymphs and adults. This method requires precise timing and safety precautions to prevent unintended damage.
  • Mowing: Regular mowing reduces habitat and food sources for grasshoppers, making the area less attractive for them to lay eggs.
  • Trap Crops: Planting trap crops around the perimeter of your main crop can lure grasshoppers away, concentrating them in a specific area where they can be more easily managed with the above methods.

Conclusion

Grasshoppers are a difficult pest to manage, even with traditional pesticide applications. However, it's clear that there are alternative solutions that can be just as effective. Utilizing botanical insecticides, biological controls, and strategic cultural practices offers a sustainable path forward in managing grasshopper populations.  - Grant @ARBICO Organics

Friday, April 19, 2024

Three Generalist Insect Predators you Need to Know!

Are you worried about pests in your garden? 

Are you even more worried about constantly needing to spray harsh pesticides on your plants to control pest populations? 

There are alternate ways to keep harmful insects away from your plants.

One of the best methods for managing pest populations is keeping a healthy population of generalist insect predators in your garden!

Maintaining a population of generalist predators, also commonly referred to as “good insects”, is a commonsense solution to pest infestations. After all, the goal of pest control is to kill off harmful insects. 

While pesticides accomplish this through chemical methods, a predator eating its prey ends up with the same result. However, there is an important difference between pesticides and generalist insect predators: the effect they have on your plants. 

Pesticides can have negative effects on plants, unintentionally harming the plants they’re supposed to preserve. Generalist predators eat only insects, which means that there’s no need to worry about one of them taking a bite out of a plant leaf.

Here’s some quick information on various types of generalist insect predators:

1. Minute Pirate Bug

Minute Pirate Bug Consuming Prey
Minute pirate bugs primarily feed on small insects such as aphids, thrips, spider mites, and other soft-bodied pests. They do well in diverse gardens that provide shelter and nectar for the pirate bugs. Marigolds, daisies, and other flowering plants will keep your pirate bug population happy and thriving. Another notable characteristic of minute pirate bugs is their quick reproduction time: their life cycle is just 3-4 weeks long.

Add minute pirate bugs to your garden at ARBICO Organics.



2. Green Lacewings

Lacewing Larva Consuming Aphids
Lacewings are beloved by gardeners because they devour soft-bodied pests and do not eat plants.
 
Though lacewings will happily eat any type of soft-bodied insects, they are primarily used as a means of aphid control in agriculture. 
Lacewing Adult

When comparing the lacewing to another good insect, the ladybug, lacewings consume more aphids per day. 

However, ladybugs tend to keep wide habitats and will not stay put in your garden. Lacewings are happy to stay in a smaller range.

Interested in getting lacewings for your garden? ARBICO has your back.



3. Praying Mantids

Young Praying Mantis
Mantids are the kings of generalist predators. They will happily eat common garden scourges such as aphids, mosquitoes, and caterpillars, and they will also eat insect eggs. However, mantids will also eat beneficial insects and other generalist predators such as lacewings, ladybugs, and butterflies. When using praying mantids in your garden, be sure to monitor their population level.


Establish a mantid population by buying eggs
from ARBICO Organics. 


Not sure what generalist predator is best for you? Give us a call! Our team of specialists will be happy to help you select the best method of control for your pest issue! Find out how to reach us here!

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Why It is Important to Test and Know Your Soil


You’ve likely heard something along the lines of, “Good soil makes good crops” if you’ve been gardening for any amount of time, but do you know what makes quality soil? And if you do understand what goes into good soil, do you know how to check if your soil measures up?

What is NPK?  What does NPK Stand For?




NPK is an initialism that stands for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These are the big three nutrients that are necessary for healthy soil. An excess or deficit of any of these three nutrients will result in improperly developed plants. At best, you’ll get reduced or inedible yields. At worst, all of your plants will die off. 

Each nutrient corresponds to a specific aspect of how plants develop:

  • Nitrogen is commonly equated with the amount of “green” in one’s garden. Too little nitrogen will cause yellowing in leaves and stunted growth in the plant. Too much nitrogen will cause an excess of blooming, which quickly results in rot. Additionally, over-applying nitrogen will result in the excess nitrogen being washed away during rainfall. As this runoff flows into streams, ponds, and other bodies of water, it becomes extremely harmful to the environment. See ARBICO’s nitrogen solutions here

  • Phosphorus plays a critical component in plant growth and development. A lack of phosphorus results in stunted, shallow roots, and spindly stems. A plant’s reproductive capabilities will also be inhibited if a plant has a phosphorus deficit. Phosphorus levels require proactive monitoring. By the time you notice the physical signs of a phosphorus deficit, it’s usually too late to save the plant. See ARBICO’s phosphorus solutions here. 

  • Potassium benefits plant health and root strength. Proper potassium levels in the soil make crops more resistant to disease. Generally, proper phosphorus levels don’t need to be as high as the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in your soil. If you’re growing plants that produce fruit, maintaining proper potassium levels can result in firmer and more flavorful fruit. See ARBICO’s potassium solutions here.

What about Soil pH?

Just like how each species of plant prefers different amounts of water and different temperatures, the preferred soil pH varies between plants. A perfectly neutral pH isn’t always the best. Typically, most plants do best when the soil is slightly acidic and between 6 and 6.5, though there are exceptions to this rule of thumb. For instance, blueberries do best when the soil has a distinctly acidic pH of 4.5, while asparagus actually needs a pH of 7 or slightly higher. Make sure that you check the pH of your soil before planting new seeds and continue to check it while planting to ensure that no imbalances have unexpectedly occurred.

Anything Else?

Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium aren’t the only nutrients necessary for healthy soil. Other trace elements play important roles in soil and plant health. Calcium keeps roots healthy and encourages the growth of root hairs, which are critical for absorbing water from the soil. Magnesium is a critical component in photosynthesis and keeping the chloroplasts in plant cells functional. Sulfur maintains the integrity of amino acid chains and helps with nitrogen intake.


The Basic Needs of Soil

In addition to nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, a proper pH level, and numerous trace elements, there are other aspects to healthy soil. The presence of organic matter is a critical part of healthy soil. Organic matter is composed of three categories: living, dead, and very dead. Living organic matter are creatures that live in the soil, such as earthworms and smaller microorganisms. Dead organic matter can range from fallen leaves to deceased organisms to manure. Very dead organic matter is also referred to as soil humus, and it is largely insulated from chemical change. Adding compost to your garden is a common way to maintain proper levels of organic matter in a controlled growing environment.

How to Test Soil

For an easy to use pH and NPK tester, try the Luster Leaf® Rapitest Soil Test Kit

Just take a sample of the soil 2-3 inches below the surface then mix with water.  Transfer the soil-water mix to the test chamber, then add the powder from the appropriate capsule (pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, or Potassium). The mixture will change color—just match the color to the included guide to determine the pH or NPK level. 


Contributed by Robin @ ARBICO Organics. 



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