Tuesday, July 26, 2011

And on top of it all...tomato blight! Thoughts on pests and organic farming

We have tomato blight-it's official. Thanks to communal farmer/community gardner Jenna for putting tomato blight on our radar! Without the heads up I'm not sure we would have caught it in time. Being new to tomato blight, we had a lot to learn in a short time. It's a fungus that spreads very fast, mostly in wet conditions. It manifests itself as black spots, eventually turning the leaf yellow and ultimately dying. It can devestate a whole crop fast. Tomato blight is responsible for the Irish potato -giving perspective of what we're up against. Last year it devestated a whole growing region in south east MN and northwest WI-it can spread quickly and do a lot of damage.

What are we doing to combat it? Well first, we just had to laugh. It seems we have gotten every possible pest/disease imaginable. Alright, not every pest, but it does sure seem like it! One after the other, it's like we can never win. This year has been especially bad for pests for everyone. But anyways...to deal with the blight we are hand plucking every blighted leaf/branch, packaging it up, exporting it off the farm and burning it. We are getting a copper fungicide expidited to us tomorrow to spray on the plants and kill the fungus. Hopefully we can manage to save a portion of the tomatoes.

Speaking of pests....we also have cabbage loopers. They're out of control! We are planning on spraying dipel df on them tomorrow. This is a gram positive bacteria that will interfere with the pest's DNA, hopefully killing it. This is an organic pesticide and is OMRI certified.

The potato beatles also have spiraled out of control-go figure. We're goign to spray pyganic on them tomorrow as well. Pyganic is a derivative of the phyrntheum plant- a natural insecticide. We tried to grow our own pyryntheum, but it didn't grow well when we didn't water it...opps...

All in all, this year has been a hard year to be an organic farmer. I (Becca) drive home from the farm past the fields of corn and soybeans and I think-geez, it would be so easy to spray for weeds, pests, and diseases! I could have it done in a heartbeat! Instead we struggle day after day trying to win the war against weeds and pests. But while on the farm, it's easy to remember why we do this. Not only is it fulfilling work, it's essential work. Everyone eats, and we must learn to provide for our hungry appetites appropriately in ecologically sustainable ways. There shouldn't even be an option. Government agricultural subsidies and incentives make it easy to be bad- to throw chemicals at our problems and hope they go away. But that will not cut it for the long term.

I continue to be satisfied being an organic farmer despite the pests.

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