The primary method of managing our land is through an integrated pest management system. This means that our farm uses ecosystem based strategies to manage the possibility of detrimental pests. These ecosystem strategies stem from an acute awareness of the systems of the land on our farm. Each piece of our farm is interdependent on another part of the farm. The water, the soil, the plants, and the animals are all interlaced and connected to each other in one way or another. Recognizing the systems that inherently interact allows us to integrate pest management practices that regenerate our farm.
The first and foremost way we manage the possibility of detrimental pests on our farm is through taking preliminary preventative measures. The more we can act in advance to avoid the possibility of any pest becoming problematic to our crops, the better. All of our preventative measures result from a keen knowledge of our land and our crops. Our farm is in the high desert of Oregon. This means our climate is dry and hot and is conducive to certain pests, certain times of year. We also grow a variety of different crops. Some crops suffer from certain pests more than others. Awareness of what pests to expect based on the climate and crops we grow helps us to prepare for they types of pests we will encounter on the farm.
One of the best ways to prevent persistent pest issues is through fostering healthy crops. The stronger and healthier our plants, the more resistant to pests they will be. What are some measures Rainshadow takes on our farm to cultivate healthy crops?
One way is through the practice of crop rotation. We switch the location of each crop on the farm after each clear harvest. On our farm we grow 5 acres of purple viking potatoes each year. Our potatoes are planted into our 25 acre field in the springtime. It is recommended that you only plant potatoes on the same land every 5 years. Each year we move our potato crop through the field so they are only planted in the same spot every 5 years. This helps us mitigate any problems the potato might have with pests. Potatoes are prone to skin diseases and Colorado Potato Beetles. Because we rotate them through our big field, any type of pest that may have been lingering in the soil where the potatoes we planted the previous year will die off and be less of an issue for our plants each year.
Our rotation of potato plants dictates where the rest of our plants will go. We plant a variety of row crops, corn, beans, wheat, and cover crops in our 25 acre field as well. Each year these crops are planted in a different location to support soil health, nutrient retention, and manage pests.
In addition to crop rotation, we also interplant some crops to support each other. These “companion crops” reduce the amount of pests attracted to certain crops. For instance, we plant carrots in between our onions to reduce the chance of onion worms. We also plant sweet alyssum in our rows of brassicas to attract beneficial insects to eat some of our pests. Ladybugs and praying mantises are regarded with much honor and value at our farm!