Chemicals on my food is really not something I want. At all. So when I came across this article from Green Matters about farmers using flowers instead of chemicals for pest control, it got my attention! What an awesome idea, to plant flowers, which helps the bees, and not need to spray harsh chemicals on our food. The source article from Fast Company is also a very good read.
Farmers Are Using Flowers To Beat Back Pests Instead Of Chemicals
A farm is its own ecosystem, but many conventional practices strip away the life cycle of all the creatures living in it by using pesticides. This makes sense, since crops can be decimated by the wrong kind of insect or other invader. But pesticides have created a number of problems; not only do pests become gradually resistant to the poison, the use of the chemicals can be unhealthy for workers and potentially for the people who come in contact with the produce in their food cycle.
Fast Company reports that many organic farmers are going back to older practices by cultivating an environment where natural pest predators can live. They’re growing flowers amongst their other crops, creating a home for creatures like parasitic wasps, who eat aphids in their larval state. It’s been a common practice to grow flowers around the perimeter of farmland acres, because it encourages biodiversity. But agriculturalists are experimenting with strips of flowers within their crops, creating a highway for bugs to travel farther and cover more ground for pest control.
It seems most of these trials are happening in the UK, but if the results are good maybe North America will start on it as well.
These Farms Are Testing A Low-Tech Pesticide Alternative: Flowers
To make sure more beneficial bugs come to their fields to feed on pests, farmers are planting them homes in the middle of their fields. (Extra bonus: It looks beautiful.)
On a farm near the town of Buckingham, England, a crop of oilseed rape–a plant that would normally make the field a solid yellow color–is planted with long, wide rows of wildflowers in the middle. The field is 1 of 14 sites in a study testing how well the wildflowers attract pest-eating bugs, and how well they could help replace commercial pesticides.
Tiny parasitic wasps, for example, eat aphids, a pest for multiple crops. But the wasps only provide pest control when they’re first born; the adults need to eat pollen and nectar from flowers. In a typical industrial farm field, with a single crop planted across acres, there isn’t enough food for the natural predators to survive. Planting strips of flowers can change that.
The study also includes borders of wildflowers around each field, something that some farmers have used over the past two decades in the area to promote general biodiversity, not specifically for pest control. But because small bugs can’t travel far, researchers are testing strips of flowers placed in strips in the middle of fields. It’s something that’s possible to do now because farming technology has evolved.
How exciting. Do you garden or grow things? What do you use to keep pests at bay?