• 07Apr

    New Research Links Neonicotinoid Pesticides to Monarch Butterfly Declines
    By Jonathan Latham, PhD

    Synopsis: New research has identified the neonicotinoid insecticide
    clothianidin as a likely contributor to monarch butterfly declines in North
    America. The research, published on April 3rd 2015, identifies concentrations
    of clothianidin as low as 1 part per billion as harmful to monarch butterfly
    caterpillars. These concentrations of clothianidin were found in the
    populations of milkweeds sampled by the researchers. Previously, no research
    had been done on neonicotinoids and butterflies and therefore this is the
    first report of neonicotinoids affecting monarchs or any other butterflies.
    The research was conducted in Brookings, South Dakota and is published in the
    journal Science and Nature (Springer).

  • 23Feb

    One of the largest problems beginning farmers face is pest control. It could be that insects are a problem for you, but as bad as they are, something even bigger lurks in the shadows, that being mice, rats, and other vermin. Difficult to handle with trapping alone, these rodents can wreak havoc and contaminate animal feed. They are capable of damaging crops or anything else that suits their fancy. With teeth made for chewing, it can be tough to keep these animals from making their way into containers and feed bins that are not tough enough to keep them out. Even then, it is not possible to contain everything you need and use on the farm, so there comes a time when a choice must be made. Oftentimes that choice is to get a barn cat.

    Although it is not always high at the top of our lists to acquire another mouth to feed, having barn cats can make a world of difference when it comes to pest control. Keep in mind that for mice and rats, your barn and farm are quite literally an all you can eat buffet. Poison is an option, albeit a risky one because it can harm or even kill animals for which it was not intended. A cat, on the other hand, with its natural prey drive, is a much more logical solution to the pest problem.

    Even if your feed is secure, that is not to say that mice and rats cannot pose a problem. For one thing, they are drawn to and like to chew electrical wires. That means lighting and other electricity is at risk of not only failure to work but chewed, frayed wires present a fire hazard. Aside from that, there is the fact that such animals carry and spread the hantavirus as they move about, dropping feces along the way.

    Photo: Feral Cat Focus

    Photo: Feral Cat Focus

    Though we’ve all heard stories of failed mousers who’d rather lie around and do nothing, most barn cats are attune to their job and very willing to do it. Even so, there are some steps you can take to gently encourage your barn cats to embrace a working lifestyle as opposed to a leisurely one. For starters, get them young–yes, them, as in more than one, since we all enjoy having a buddy for hunting, playing, and keeping warm. Much as you would with any other type of animal, select your kittens from good stock, such as another successful, proven barn cat. If their mother knew and did her job well, she will usually teach her babies, which means that by the time they are a few months old, they will have the know-how to do their job. In the event you do not want kittens, it is often possible to get feral cats in need of relocation through your local animal shelter.

    With kittens it is also easy to establish a home area, making them less likely to relocate on their own accord which could be a problem with older, more independent cats. Keep your kittens contained for a few weeks, providing food, water, and litter box access so they will understand that this is their home base. A stall is a good area in which to start them, and as they grow they will likely venture out on their own to explore their world. Once this exploring starts, it is likely that the mousing will, too. Don’t let this be an excuse to stop feeding them or cut them back; a mouse only diet is not enough to sustain, especially during cold weather, and the presence of cat food will reiterate where home is. Just take care to keep cat food in an area away from other vermin; twice daily feedings after which uneaten food is picked up is useful in removing temptation when it comes to other animals.

    Don’t forget to provide routine healthcare. This means worming, treating for fleas, and vaccinating. Just as you wouldn’t want unhealthy vermin around your barn, you do not want unhealthy cats. A sick animal is a sick animal, after all, so stay on top of the health care of yours. Also, don’t forget to spay and neuter unless you want more barn cats…and more and more and more. Additionally, part of their health and wellbeing is giving them a place to stay warm. Make sure that place is not your house as it negates the purpose of a barn cat, but set aside a space in the barn where they can get out of the elements and remain warm when the mercury drops.

    Though cats are very useful in pest control, it may be necessary to keep them away from baby chicks as those could be mistaken for a snack. Barring incidents such as this, most barn cats truly are worth their weight in gold. Not only do they keep rodent populations under control, they also give you the peace of mind that is knowing your barn and feed is safe from contamination, saving you the time lost and headaches you could have without feline employees on the payroll.

  • 13Nov

    Farmscaping: Making Use of Nature’s Pest Management Services – eXtension

    Farmscaping is a whole-farm, ecological approach to increase and manage biodiversity with the goal of increasing the presence of beneficial organisms. Many pest populations can be managed by enhancing the efficacy and local abundance of the existing community of natural enemies through modification of the environment, a concept that has been termed “conservation biological control.”Farmscaping methods include the use of insectary plants, hedgerows, cover crops, and water reservoirs to attract and support populations of beneficial organisms such as insects, spiders, amphibians, reptiles, bats, and birds that parasitize or prey upon insect pests.Insectary plants like mustards interplanted with market crops provide pollen and nectar to attract and maintain beneficial insects in the crop landscape. Ideal farmscape plantings provide food and shelter for beneficial organisms, suppress weeds, and grow in close proximity to the cash crop without competing for space (light, water and nutrients). In some cases, the term “farmscaping” is broadened beyond just augmentation of insectary plants to include trap crops—i.e. host plants that are more attractive to the pest than the cash crop that are planted near the cash crop to “trap” pests, thus reducing pressure and damage to the cash crop.

    Also See the following links for more information:





  • 05Mar

    Register now for online courses being offered by Open Learning and Educational Support through the Horticulture, Turf, and Landscape Department at the University of Guelph.  Summer 2014 semester starts Monday, May 12 (2014) and concludes 12 weeks later on Friday, August 1 (2014). Register by Friday, April 11, 2014 and save money with an Early Bird discount.

    Courses offered this summer are:


        Introduction to Plant Identification


        Introduction to Soils and Plant Growth

        Ornamental Plant Protection 

    These online courses are perfect for adult learners looking for information and credentials.  Course content is practical and applied  – use what you learn!

    Visit www.horticulturecertificates.com for course outlines and to register.

  • 30Nov

    Trap Cropping in Organic Strawberries Webinar

    Join eOrganic for a webinar next week on Trap Cropping in Organic Strawberries to Manage Lygus Bugs in California, by Diego Nieto of the University of California Santa Cruz. The free webinar takes place on Tuesday, December 3 at 2PM Eastern Time (1PM Central, 12PM Mountain, 11AM Pacific Time). Advance registration is required.

    Diego Nieto will discuss the rationale for using alfalfa trap crops in organic strawberries. Points of emphasis will include the efficient and targeted approach to pest management, improved classical biological control and predator dispersion and behavior. Along with research findings from recent studies, this presentation will include grower recommendations for the implementation of trap cropping.

    Diego Nieto is an entomological researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he has worked to address pest issues in commercial agriculture for 12 years. He has researched biological control, farmscaping and integrated pest management in cotton, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and strawberries.

  • 20Jul

    According to a new report from Purdue University, popular fungicides long used to control apple scab have begun losing their effectiveness. An article by Brian Wallheimer reports that a recent study conducted by Purdue researchers interviews Associate Professor of Botany and Plant Pathology Janna Beckerman, a co-author of a research paper resulting from the study. According to the article, Beckerman says that “extensive, long-term use of four popular fungicides has led to resistances in apples in Indiana and Michigan”. According to the paper, lab tests indicate that dodine, kresoxim-methyl, myclobutanil or thiophanate-methyl are less effective than in previous assays. This has led to great concern for the conventional apple industry, since scab is considered a major pest in many apple growing regions. To read the full article and an abstract of the paper, visit: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2011/110712BeckermanScab.html.

  • 16Apr

    What are the best ways to manage insects, weeds and plant diseases? Three research-based guides, available through Oregon State University Extension and updated every year, can provide you with reliable answers. The manuals provide extensive information on pest biology and chemical and nonchemical control methods and are useful to Pacific Northwest farmers and growers as well as consultants and home gardeners.

    PNW Weed Management Handbook: Starting in 2011, this handbook is updated quarterly, rather than annually, and all information can be found on a new website: http://pnwhandbooks.org/weed/ The manual is a quick reference of weed control practices used in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Chemical regulation of plant growth is complex, and a large portion of the handbook is devoted to registered uses of herbicides, crop desiccants and plant growth regulators. Most uses of chemical regulators are based on research of the Agricultural Experiment Stations or the OSU Extension Service and neighboring states, where circumstances are similar. The handbook was originally planned as a manual for county Extension specialists. Information pertaining to only a few crops, sites or situations can be found in publications at local county Extension offices and in the OSU Extension Publications and Multimedia Catalog (http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/).

    PNW Insect Management Handbook: The handbook is revised and reissued annually. More than 50 contributors review management practices for crops in the Pacific Northwest. Chemical and nonchemical control recommendations are included. The web version of the manual, http://uspest.org/pnw/insects, includes links to pest photographs, fact sheets and pesticide labels. An annual review is necessary as the legal uses of many pesticides change frequently, according to editor Craig Hollingsworth, a University of Massachusetts researcher who is one of several scientists who keep track of the legalities. “Changes include delisting of crops or sites from the label, new formulations requiring different application rates, restrictions on pre-harvest applications, reapplication intervals or reentry periods or other circumstances,” he said. Many pesticides are restricted for use only by licensed commercial growers. Separate chemical recommendations are listed for commercial and home use.

    PNW Plant Disease Management Handbook: This handbook is a reference for the important plant diseases in the Pacific Northwest, and much of the handbook’s content can be found online at http://plant-disease.ippc.orst.edu/ The handbook is the primary method for OSU Extension plant pathology to deliver information to producers, agricultural consultants, field scouts, Oregon Department of Agriculture personnel, field and nursery people, master gardeners and chemical industry representatives. Organic or conventional growers should find the guide useful. General information on disease biology as well as cultural, biological and chemical control recommendations are summarized for each plant disease. Crop diversification, evolving biological systems, new cultural and biological controls and changing chemical control recommendations require continued enhancement of the handbook. Read more »

  • 20Mar

    By Dennis O’Brien – From the USDA Agricultural Research Service

    U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists trying to help Florida growers find a replacement for methyl bromide are studying an alternative soil treatment that uses molasses as one of its ingredients.

    Researchers with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are examining whether a cropping system that uses molasses to stimulate microbial activity could be used to replace the popular fumigant. They also are studying recently developed fumigants. The work, presented at the recent Annual International Research Conference on Methyl Bromide Alternatives and Emissions Reductions, supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security. ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency. Read more »

  • 08Mar

    The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) is a relatively new pest problem, but can be a serious, season long threat to anyone growing food crops. They really like to eat sweet, thin skinned crops such as heirloom tomatoes, green peppers, berries, corn, soybeans, and lots of different fruit crops. They can be a problem on flowers as well. Most people know them simply as a pest in the home because they like to overwinter in warm places, and they literally do stink (because they release a chemical from scent glands on their thorax). But in many parts of the country their populations have recently exploded and many entomologists expect them to be a serious plant pest this coming growing season.

    History: Native to Western Asia, the BMSB is though to have been introduced into the U.S. in Pennsylvania in the late 1990′s. They have quickly spread from the Mid-Atlantic states to many regions of the country, and because they have no natural enemies, their populations are expected to continue to grow and spread.

    Identification: BMSB is a ‘true bug’, with the scientific name Halyomorpha halys. They range in size from the first instar at 2.4 mm to the fifth instar that is 12 mm in length. Adults are quite large, up to 17 mm (more than half an inch). They are mottled brown on the upper body, and white with gray or black markings. Their eyes are dark reddish brown. They have patches of coppery or bluish-metallic colored depressions on their head, and white stripes on their antennae. Tare the typical Brown Marmorated Stink Bug“shield” shape of other stink bugs, and are almost as wide as they are long. Eggs are round and white and are typically seen in clusters on the underside of leaves.

    Damage: BMSB is a sucking insect that uses its proboscis to pierce the host plant to feed. Feeding results, in part, in the formation of small, necrotic areas just under the skin and sometimes on the outer surface of fruits and leaves of it’s hosts. It can cause characteristic cat-facing injury in fruits such as apples and peaches.

    Control: Entomologists are still exploring potential control mechanisms, and currently there is no consensus on what chemical controls are most effective. The effectiveness of various insecticide classes to control of BMSB is evaluated in Nielsen et al. (2008) and a brief summary of his results is presented below. Though Pyrethrioid insecticides have shown effectiveness in other laboratory tests, they can cause other problems in IPM programs for fruit crops. Organic row crop growers have reported using row covers effectively. Some growers have reported effective use of companion planting using marigolds, garlic and tansy. And others use trap crops such as buckwheat, sunflower, or sorghum.  There is also now a commercial pheromone trap produced by a AgBio (http://www.agbio-inc.com/1/post/2011/02/stink-bug-trap-debut.html) developed in partnership with USDA (Thanks to The Bug Lady for pointing this out). Scouting is extremely important so that the problem can be identified before it gets out of hand. It is likely that control measures similar to those used for other stink bugs and related insects will be adapted to the specific life cycle, behavior patterns, and product sensitivity of BMSB, but agricultural scientists are still in the very early stages of learning about what works and what doesn’t.

    Resources: Michigan State University has an information alert with lots of good information available at http://www.ipmnews.msu.edu/fruit/Fruit/tabid/123/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/3247/Brown-Marmorated-Stink-Bug.aspx. Dr. Tracy Leskey, entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville is an expert on the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, and she co-chairs a special USDA working group looking for ways to deal with the problems presented by this emerging pest. You can see an excellent video presentation by her at http://freshandlocalcsa.com/videopage.html.

    Reference: Nielsen AL, Shearer PW, Hamilton GC. 2008. Toxicity of insecticides to Halyomorpha halys (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) using glass-vial bioassays. Journal of Economic Entomology 101: 1439-1442. Excerpt from abstract: Pyrethroid insecticides, especially bifenthrin, caused mortality against H. halys at low doses, with LC50 values of 0.03–0.49 (μg [AI]/cm2)(mg body mass−1). Three nicotinoids were tested against adults with LC50 values ranging between 0.05 and 2.64 (μg [AI]/cm2)(mg body mass−1). Phosmet had LC50 values that were up to 3.6-fold higher than other classes of insecticides tested. Fifth instars of H. halys were evaluated against selected chemicals, and they were generally susceptible at lower rates than the adults. Due to significant differences in weight, males and females were individually weighed, tested, and analyzed separately. Sex-related differences in susceptibility were found in the responses to thiomethoxam with males being less susceptible despite having a smaller body mass. Note: “LC50” refers to the concentration required to kill 50% of insects treated within a given time.

    Here’s one sure fire way to take care of the pest:

  • 16Feb

    This entry has moved, please visit the revised post at: http://beginningfarmers.org/vermicompost-is-far-more-than-a-soil-enhancer/

    Greens grown without/with vermicompost


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