Tag Archives: Organic farming

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)- Rodents

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A Rat In Search of Food

Integrated Pest Management is an approach to pest management designed to manage pests and diseases with as little damage as possible to people, the environment and beneficial organisms.

Farmers aim at producing high yields and profits from their crops but their efforts are reduced by pests and disease infestations and damage.

Managing any vertebrate pest requires a preventative approach and with mice and rats, it begins prior to harvest. Even if rodent activity appears lower, preventative management still needs to be considered to prevent future damage.

The Types of Damage Caused by Rodents

  • Loss of volume or weight due to their feeding
  • Loss in quality caused by droppings, urine, and hairs
  • Damage to containers such as bags, that results in spillage
  • Health hazards to people who handle the stored products, certain species of mice and rats are carriers of diseases such as plague, weil’s disease (Leptospiral jaundice) rat-bite fever, and salmonella.

While they are different species of rodents with slightly different habitats, the management approach for all is the same. All mice and rats in storage facilities can cause a significant amount of damage.  Nearby corn or soybean fields can provide a fall food source for mice and rats that will then move into the storage facility or the barn.

Controlling vertebrate pests requires multiple approaches, which in general include exclusion, habitat modification, repellents, trapping and rodenticides. In an open and large scale commercial setting, exclusion, trapping or repellents are not effective. This leaves habitat manipulation and rodenticides, and both are needed for a successful mice and rats abatement program.

Habitat modification such as a close mowing of grass in row middles and ditches late in the fall provides a two-fold management purpose – reduce favorable habitat for mice activity and expose rodents more readily to predators that help with population management. Cleaning up fencerows to reduce habitat is also needed.

Rodenticides are another approach in management programs, as they provide the quickest and most practical means of bringing large populations of mice and rats under control. Bait should be applied when dry and fair weather is predicted for at least three days. If there is a great deal of alternate food (fallen mangoes in a block or nearby field corn), baiting might need to be done more than once to be most effective. If mice and rat populations are very high, a second rodenticide application might be needed. As with any pest management program, but especially when using rodenticides, the risks to non-target organisms needs to be taken into account and prevented.

Pros and Cons of Organic Farming

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Some of the Crops Grown Organically at a Farmers Market in Munich

What is Organic Farming?
Organic farming is a technique used in farming without the use of any chemicals or synthetics. Its aim is to produce crops which have the highest nutritional values with least impact on nature. Crop rotation, green manure, use of natural fertilizers and biological pest control form the crux of organic farming. It is a proactive ecology management strategy. This strategy enhances the fertility of the soil, prevents soil erosion and at the same time protects the humans and animal kingdom from the side-effects of chemicals and synthetics. Many of the farm products, like, vegetables, fruit, herbs, meat, milk, eggs, etc. are produced organically by some farmers.

“Organic” as defined by law, implies quality assurance. The words “natural” and “eco-friendly” mean that organic farming techniques might have been used, but it does not necessarily mean completely following organic techniques.

Pros and Cons of Organic Farming
Like everything else, organic farming also has its pros and cons…
The most important of the advantages of organic farming is that it maintains the life of the soil, not only for the current generation, but also for the future generations. Water pollution is reduced with organic farming. Most of the time after it rains, the water from the fields, which contains chemicals, gets drained into the rivers. This pollutes the water bodies. In organic farming, since no chemicals or synthetics are used, water pollution reduces as well.

Organic farming helps in building richer soil. Rich soil is obtained by intelligently rotating crops. The rich soil helps in plant growth. The rate of soil erosion is reduced drastically. A French study has revealed that the nutritional quality and micro-nutrients are present in higher quantities in organically produced crops. The micro-nutrients promote good health. Organically grown food tastes better too. The overall cost of cultivating the crops reduces as the farmers use green manure or worm farming to replenish the lost nutrients of the soil. The other option that the farmers use, is to grow legumes in rotation with other crops. The life of organically grown plants is longer than the plants cultivated by traditional methods. Organically grown crops are more drought tolerant. The chemical fertilizers cause the plant to ripen fast. When the crop does not get water it withers and dies, which is not the case with organic crops.

Along with the pros, there are certain cons too. The first disadvantage is low productivity. With the highly developed chemicals and machinery, the farmer is able to multiply his harvest manifold times. The organic farmers use the cultivation method as opposed to drilling method used by the traditional farmers. The cultivated soil is prone to wind and water erosion. The traditional farmers opine that direct drilling does not cause any disharmony in the soil structure. The next argument is that the organically produced food is expensive. The cost is very often 50-100 percent more than the traditional food. The other valid argument is that organic food is not always available. There is a reason behind that. The organic farmers grow crops in accordance to the season. Neither do they artificially grow any crop nor do they extend the life of the plant or use chemicals, synthetics or pesticides. Therefore, oranges will be found only in winter and mangoes only in summer. Looking at it from the health benefits point of view, there is no doubt that you will benefit if you eat a particular food item, when it is actually in season.

After weighing the pros and cons of organic farming, it is noticed that the pros outweigh the cons. It is therefore best to consume organically grown food, although it is expensive.

CROP ROTATION AND SOIL FERTILITY

Crop rotation is “The practice of alternating the annual crops grown in a specific field in a planned pattern or sequence so that the crops of the same species or family are not grown repeatedly without interruption on the same field”.
-US National Organic Program definition-

OR leaving soil in the best position it can be for continuing/next crops – that includes cover crops, rotations, green manures, catch crops etc.

BENEFITS OF CROP ROTATION
Preventive Pest Management
Crop rotation may limit the growth of populations of agricultural pests including insects, nematodes, and diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi through regular interruption and replacing crop host species with different plant species that do not serve as hosts. The use of specific crop and cover crop rotations may also be used to control pests through allelopathy, an interference interaction in which a plant releases into the environment a compound that inhibits or stimulates the growth or development of other organisms.
Reduced Weed Competition
Carefully designed crop rotations may also serve to outcompete problematic weed species through shading, competition for nutrients and water, and/or allelopathy.
Distribution of Nutrient Demand Placed On Soil by Crops
Different crops place different nutrient demands on the soil.
Making Efficient Use of Nutrient Inputs
Cropping species that access nutrients from different depths within the soil horizon may make the most efficient use of nutrient inputs. Efficient use of agricultural nutrients may further prevent nutrient losses/leaching and associated environmental pollution.
Nitrogen Fixation
Annual cover crop rotations using nitrogen-fixing (legume) cover crops may contribute significant amounts of nitrogen to succeeding crops as well as adding organic matter to the soil.
Improving Soil Quality
Cover crop rotations allow soils to remain undisturbed for various periods of time during which the processes of soil aggregation can take place. The use of a perennial grass rotation lasting 6 months to one year or more may significantly contribute to organic matter accumulation, stimulate soil biological activity and diversity, and improve soil physical properties.
Increased Crop Yields
The rotation effect – Yield of crops grown in rotation are often higher than those grown in monocultures, even when both systems are supplied with abundant nutrients and water.
Growing a diversity of crops in a given year spreads out labour needs throughout a season. The diversity of crops reduces the economic risks caused by variations in climate and/or market conditions.
TEN BASIC PRACTICES OF CROP ROTATION
Rotate the location of annual crops each year. This is especially true for crops in the Solanaceae family (e.g., peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes, etc.). Do not follow one crop with a closely related crop species, as pests and diseases are shared by closely related crops. When growing a wide diversity of crops, attempt to group crops into blocks according to the following criteria:
(1) Plant family
(2) Similar timing/maturation periods
(3) Type of crop (i.e., root vs. fruit vs. leaf crop)
(4) Crops with similar cultural requirements (e.g., irrigation, plastic mulch, dry farmed, planted to moisture crops, etc.)
(5) Follow nitrogen-fixing cover crops and/or legume forage crops (e.g., clover, alfalfa) with heavyfeeding crops (e.g., corn) to take advantage of nitrogen supply.
(6) Follow long-term crop rotations (e.g., 1-year perennial rye rotation or pasture rotations) with disease-sensitive crops (e.g., strawberries).
(7) In diverse annual production systems, heavy-feeding crops (crops with high nutrient demands) should be followed by medium-light or shallow-rooted crops, followed by deep-rooted crops.
(8) Always grow some crops that will produce and leave a large amount of residue/biomass that can be incorporated into the soil to help maintain soil organic matter levels.
(9) Grow deep-rooted crops (e.g., sunflower, fava beans, etc.) that may access nutrients from lower soil horizons, alleviate soil compaction, and fracture sub-soil, thus promoting water infiltration and subsequent root penetration.
(10) Use crop sequences known to aid in controlling weeds.
(11) Use crop sequences known to promote healthy crop growth (e.g., corn followed by onions followed by Cole/Brassicaceae crops) and avoid cropping sequences known to promote pests and diseases (e.g., monocultures in general or peas followed by potatoes specifically).
In conclusion, crop rotation is primarily about a cultural system that is based on natural principles. It is about building a fertile living soil and an environment that supports the healthy growth of plants and natural biological control—a situation where synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are unnecessary and even counterproductive.
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