Pest management is an important topic in the production of vegetables and herbs. Commercial farms need to be economically viable in order to be successful and managing pests so that they do not cause reductions in yields and thus profit, is an important component of their overall economic sustainability. Normally, there is not the same economic imperative for home gardeners; however, there are practices gardeners can follow to address pest issues, both preventatively and after pests appear, to increase production and quality of their vegetables and herbs.
We’ll begin by briefly discussing Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a holistic approach for managing agricultural pests that was developed for use by commercial farmers. The concept of IPM was first developed in the early 1970s and is constantly being updated and improved through research undertaken at land grant universities, including the University of Massachusetts, in collaboration with other institutions around the world.
Many of the concepts used in the implementation of IPM, although developed for commercial farmers, are also relevant for managing garden pests. We recommend you read “Overview: Integrated Pest Management” found in the New England Vegetable Management Guide (NEVMG). As described in this article, a critical component of IPM is the accurate identification of the target pest, be it an insect or disease. It’s helpful to know the scientific name as well as the common name of the pest, because some common names are used for multiple diseases or insects. (For reasons described below, it is not as important to know the names of weeds you have in a garden in order to manage them.)
Most commercial farmers use pesticides on their farms, whether they are organic or conventional. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the use of all pesticides in the United States, including all pesticides for commercial growers, home gardeners, lawn care, ornamentals…the list goes on. Here is their definition of what constitutes a pesticide: What is a Pesticide?
- Any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest.
- Any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant.
- Any nitrogen stabilizer.