Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Insect pests can cause major crop loss or contamination if not managed timely. We are generally very careful about choosing the right insecticide, but we forget to check the condition of the spray equipment that leads to insect control failure even with the best of products. Poor spray application can also result in wasted products. Here are some quick reminders as the summer season starts.
- Select the most appropriate sprayer based on insecticide label recommendations. Insecticides are available in a range of formulations, from liquids to dusts, emulsifiable concentrate to wettable granules. Some insecticides may not need any separate equipment as they are injected through the drip irrigation system for uniform application. Many new backpack sprayers have battery-operated pumps (Hudson Battery Power Sprayer, Solo 475-B Professional, Chapin 63985 4-Gallon Wide Mouth Sprayer, etc) that can provide good coverage with insecticides inside dense canopy.
- When purchasing small capacity backpack sprayers, choose the ones with thick walls (indicating quality) and wide opening on top for easy fill. A pressure release valve helps to quickly reduce excess pressure for cleaning or other applications. A metal spray boom with good quality nozzle can reduce leakage that occurs with cheap sprayers. Leaking spray boom can cause undesirable pesticide exposure to the applicator. On small farms, it is good to have separate backpack sprayers for insecticide and herbicide applications.
- Check the wear and tear on the nozzle every year. Certain products with low water solubility can be very abrasive to the nozzles causing them to change spray patterns. Insecticide applications are generally made using hollow cone nozzles to get small spray droplets. Having the correct nozzle and spray pressure reduces drift and chances of misapplication especially on diversified farms (i.e., diverse crops planted close together).
- Be careful about multiple product mixes (insecticide + fungicide or multiple insecticides) as incompatible products can settle down into a sludge and damage spray equipment. Unless recommended by the insecticide label, do a jar test with new materials to test compatibility. Keep good records of application rates and spray mixes for future reference.
- Insecticides generally require fine spraying with spray droplet size of 150 to 250 micrometers. Herbicide and fertilizer applications may require much coarser spray volume. In small plot organic research with various hand-held or backpack spray equipment, spray applications from bottom of plants with nozzle facing upward at an angle has performed better than top-down spray applications where the product simply rolls off the leaves. Add a spreader/sticker to increase product retention and distribution on plant leaves.
- Calibrate sprayer to reduce the amount of product needed. Adjust the amount of product needed by reading the label and considering targeted application of insecticides. Pay attention to spray volume so that the product doesn’t get too diluted. Don’t drop insecticide rate of application below the minimum recommendation on the label – cutting rates may cause control failure and promote insecticide resistance development.
- Wear appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) whether you are going to apply conventional or organic insecticide. Taking proper precaution for protecting personal health is important. Contact the Pesticide Safety Education program in your state for training on PPE and Worker Protection Standards mandated by the EPA. When in doubt, contact your extension office and get updated training on important farm and food safety regulations.
New Home and Urban Garden IPM Slide Chart
A brand new Urban Farm IPM Toolkit is now available for urban farmers and community gardeners. This wheel slide chart has both conventional and organic insecticide listings for nearly 20 different crops. This publication also has listing of common insect pests with images that may help when scouting garden vegetables. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get your own copy.