“We spray to prevent disease and pests.” Roger Garrett.

In our corresponding video, I join Roger Garrett of Robbins Family Farm in Scott County Virginia to discuss the available inputs for organic growers to manage pests and disease.

In our previous episode/blog about greenhouse production, we discussed that you first must utilize preventative measures before you can spray. This is still true when your crops are in the ground outside. Seed Selection, Crop Rotation, Cover Cropping, Weed Management, Black Plastic and Plant Spacing would all be your preventative measures. In the same episode/blog, we also discussed the approved input matrix (shown below). Only these inputs can be used for disease and pest management.

(Bear in mind that approved inputs will change over time.)

When I join Roger, he starts off by telling me that they just overcame a cucumber beetle infestation.

Roger mainly used Neem Oil to beat back the beetles; failing to do so in a timely manner for a young crop would be a death sentence. Cucumber Beetles aren’t the only pests on the fields; Roger also has to deal with stinkbugs and cutworms. Stinkbugs can turn your beautiful peppers into compost. The bites they take can quickly rot your peppers. As for cutworms, they will eat your plant at its base and can destroy entire fields of crops. To help manage these pests and prevent countless others, Roger will be spraying Organocide and M-Pede. This will also help prevent diseases that the plant can develop such as Downy Mildew.

Roger recommends spraying once a week when it’s cool, either early mornings or in the evenings. When you spray, wear long pants, sleeves, a hat, and gloves (so don’t be like him). Wait to handle your produce until 24 hours after being sprayed. Whenever you spray, be sure to check for bees before spraying an insecticide that could harm them.

Once you’re done spraying, make sure to dispose of any remaining spray appropriately and to wash your hands.

As an Organic Grower selling to Wholesale Markets, you will NEED to spray. If a backpack sprayer is taking up too much of your time, consider purchasing a boom sprayer. Spraying won’t eradicate your pests or diseases but will help you manage them. If you’re looking to incorporate even more ways to help manage your insects, consider having a space on your farm devoted to flowers to attract pollinators and beneficial insects.

To learn more about this, I once again consulted with Richard Moyer of Moyer Family Farms. Richard explains to me that he’s creating a buzz, something he learned from the work of Richard McDonald and Patrick Badland.

What this means is that you want to have as much as possible to attract buzzing insects all year long. Insects like the Tachinid Fly or the Hymenoptera Wasp are beneficial for your farm because they prey on insects like the cucumber beetle. Not all insects are bad. Attracting insects like the Tachinid Fly, the Hymenoptera Wasp, ladybugs and bees can not only be beneficial for your crops, but will also help you manage your insects.

Lastly, Richard and I discussed his peppers. Richard has been using a heat treatment on his seeds before they go into the ground, another way to help prevent diseases. However, if your plants do develop any diseases such as bacteria speck, make sure to contact other growers in the group or Extension to help identify the disease and how to best manage it.

Derrick Von Kundra