Choosing Borders and Interplantings
PROBLEM(S): Growers often view biological control as roughly equivalent to "spraying with bugs". However, successful biological control often depends on the presence of a supportive habitat for mass–reared or naturally occurring beneficial insects in and around the crop. We were looking for cooperating farmers with good potential for success in demonstrating beneficial insect habitats for pesticide use reduction.
SIGNIFICANCE: To attract and maintain populations of beneficial insects, the farm must provide for all of their needs. The requirements may include alternate sources of prey or hosts, complimentary nutrients such as pollen and nectar, overwintering sites, etc. Simple monoculture farms rarely meet all of these needs over a sufficient period to insure adequate beneficial populations. By growing a carefully chosen set of insectary plants in and around the field, we provide the resources beneficials need to stand guard over the crop.
STRATEGY: Conduct a farm field day to attract interested farmers in the area. Advertise the opportunity to be a cooperator on our new project. Explain the habitat concept, provide information that helps farmers choose habitat plants. Allow farmers to observe the habitat and its effects on a working farm.
OUTCOME: A field day on December 16, 1996, at Naturfarm in Lompoc was attended by 45 people including some local leaders in the agriculture community. Dr Joseph Patt of Rutgers University discussed floral morphology emphasizing its roll in fostering beneficial insects. Nurseryman Jeff Chandler of Cornflower Farms provided growers with information about particular plant species that may be incorporated into habitat areas. Cindy Douglas and Deke led a tour of the farm describing the proper management of pest-break strips to optimize biological control. One cooperator was recruited.