Insect scouting is an important part of integrated pest management, whether you are a large scale farmer or just “farm” a 4′ X 8′ raised bed. Here are some hints to help you scout successfully so that you can manage garden insect pests:
Hint #1 Look under plant leaves
Damaging insects often stay on the underside of leaves or in leaf crevices and plant whorls. Check those areas carefully.
Hint #2 Look for insect eggs
Insect eggs are small and by spotting and removing them you limit future damage. Squash bug eggs are a good example.
Hint #3 Confirm insect identification
The majority of insects are not harmful to your plants. Many are actually beneficial and can help you manage pests. If you are unsure of an insect identification contact your local UGA Cooperative Extension office for confirmation. Oftentimes you can send your agent a photo and that is all he/she needs to assist you.
Hint #4 Scout at night
Some insects do their damage at night. Grabbing a flashlight and scouting after dark could yield some interesting results.
You may have heard about integrated pest management (IPM) and wondered if it is something only farmers use. Actually IPM has a real place in any type of gardening, including your community garden plot. According to the UGA Integrated Pest Management website this is the definition of IPM:
It is a science-based decision making process that employs biological, mechanical, cultural, and chemical control methods in such a way as to minimize economic, environmental, and public health risks associated with pests and pest management practices.
Notice it is science-based decision making. This is important.
In practice, the gardener employs many different strategies to combat an insect pest or disease instead of just reaching for the chemical spray. For a very basic example a gardener wants to grow tomatoes knowing that Fusarium wilt can be a problem. (Fusarium wilt is a fungus that lives in the soil and infects plants through their root systems.) This gardener will employ IPM by:
making sure his/her soil is healthy
growing healthy plants using recommended fertilization and watering practices
learning about the Fusarium wilt fungus and its biology
choosing tomato cultivars that show resistance to Fusarium wilt – these will have the letter “F” after the cultivar name
caring for garden equipment by proper disinfection and not using equipment from another gardener that has not been disinfected
being aware of the hot, dry weather that favors Fusarium wilt and looking for wilting especially during these conditions
destroying any infected plants
practicing crop rotation
With IPM, actions are taken to prevent diseases and pests from becoming a problem. Rather than simply eliminating the pests that are found right now, using IPM means the gardener will look at environmental factors that affect the pest and its ability to do damage. Armed with this information, the gardener can create conditions that are unfavorable for the pest. Know your enemy!
Your local UGA Extension agent can help you make a positive disease or insect identification so that you can make a plan to deter the problem.
Learning when and where an insect pest lays her eggs can help you find those eggs and remove them. Determining what weather conditions favor a disease can help you adjust your planting date to avoid the peak of the disease. Finding out how a disease is spread can also help you combat it. Is it soil-borne or are fungal spores spread with wind? Also, what beneficial insects prey on your insect pest and how can you attract those helpful insects?
Subscribing to this blog and other researched based information sources can help you know what diseases or pests are problematic in your area and what you can do about them.
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