Scouting, Row Cover and Crop Rotation: Managing Pests and Diseases on the Farm
Newaukum Valley Farm, Chehalis
July 20, 2016
Over 20 farmers, farm interns, and agricultural professionals gathered for the first farm walk of the 2016 season at Newaukum Valley Farm, situated on the Chehalis River in Lewis County. Josh Hyatt and Melissa Henderson have farmed here since 2003, building a successful diversified vegetable operation by developing strong relationships with restaurants, wholesalers, and local customers. These relationships are highlighted in the summer months, when they host farm-to-table dinners next to picturesque koi ponds.
Throughout the walk, Josh highlighted specific IPM practices, challenges, and successes experienced over the years. His most successful strategies: soil fertility management and the early and liberal use of row cover. As Josh said, “There’s no question in my mind – it always pays for itself.” Another pest management take away is adaptation – sometimes you have to change what you grow. After experiencing a 30,000-pound potato loss due to the combined effects of flea beetle and blight, Josh and Melissa shifted production to sunchokes, which has offered a strong market alternative due to relatively hassle-free production and a secure buyer.
Carmen Blubaugh, WSU Entomologist, offered additional information about the types of habitat resources that impact insect biodiversity on farms. She provided tips for scouting, a method of surveying for farm pests and predators that can help farmers manage pests deliberately, rather than reactively. Her tips for scouting included choosing plants randomly and checking the tops of bottoms of each plant to count the number and type of insects and larva. To identify the observed pests and predator and learn about management recommendations, she turns to the Pacific Northwest Insect Management Handbook.
With a regular scouting practice, IPM strategies become more effective as they are tailored to the pests, predators, and beneficials actually on farm. During the farm walk scouting demo, participants found brassica leaves with crispy brown aphids on them. Carmen explained that these aphids had already been parasitized by a small wasp. This indicated that a natural predator was effectively managing the aphid population in this kale crop, an observation that would affect how to manage recurring aphid outbreaks on the farm.
Summary by Leah Grupp-Williams
This farm walk funded in part by the WSDA Specialty Crop Block Program.