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Panchkavyas

Posted on | October 2, 2013 | No Comments

Panchakavya, an organic product blended from five offerings that evolve from the cow, used in Indian medicine since time immemorial and now being used, with astonishing results, to safeguard plants and soil micro-organisms and to increase fruit and vegetable production.

The Sanskrit word Panchakavya means “mixture of five products”, and it has been used in traditional Hindu rituals throughout history. Panchakavya is a concoction prepared by mixing five products of Cow. The three direct constituents are dung, urine, and milk; the two derived products are curd and ghee. When the above five products of the cow are suitably mixed and used, these have a miraculous positive influence on living organisms.

Nutrient Content and Components of Panchakavya

  • Cow dung: It has undigested fiber, epithelial cells, bile pigments and salts rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, micro nutrients, intestinal bacteria, fungi and microbial organisms. It contains 82% water and solid matter 18% which constitutes minerals – 0.1%, ash -2.4%, organic manure -14.6%, ca and Mg -0.4%, so3 -0.05%, Silica-1.5%, N -0.5%,P-0.2% and K-0.5%
  • Cow’s urine: It contains uric and hippuric acids in large quantities along with minerals like sodium, chloride, sulfates of calcium and magnesium, potassium hippurate etc. It is a rich source of urea and acts as a nutrient as well as a hormone. It contains water 91% and solid matter 19% which includes minerals1.4%, ash 2.0%, manure 6.0%, ca and Mg 0.15%, Silica 0.01%, N1.0%, K 1.35% and P in traces. Urine contains most of the N(63%), and S(50%), wastes which are readily soluble.
  • Cow’s milk: It contains protein, fat, carbohydrate, amino acid, calcium hydrogen, lactic acid and also Lactobacillus bacterium. Many microorganisms could ferment either five or six carbon sugars, but the Lactobacillus bacterium could ferment both.
  • Ghee: It has vitamin A, vitamin B, calcium, fat, etc., and is also rich in glycosides, which protect the wounded portion from infection.
  • Curd: Cows curd is rich in microbes (Lactobacillus) that are responsible for fermentation.

1. Panchakavya material

Panchakavya, a Bio organic product has the very best potential and plays important the role in  promoting growth and providing immunity in plant system and act as growth promoters. Panchakavya have important content e.g. cow dung, cow urine, milk, curd, sugercane, Cow ghee, banana, Tender coconut and water. When suitably mixed and used, this has miraculous effects.

  • Cow dung – 7 kg
  • Cow ghee – 1 kg

Mix the above two ingredients thoroughly both in morning and evening hours and keep it for 3 days

  • Cow Urine – 10 liters
  • Water – 10 liters

After 3 days mix cow urine and water and keep it for 15 days with regular mixing both in the morning and evening hours. After 15 days mix the following and panchakavya will be ready after 30 days.

  • Cow milk – 3 liters
  • Cow curd – 2 liters
  • Tender coconut water – 3 liters
  • Sugarcane Juice- 3liters
  • Well ripened banana – 12 nos.

2. Preparation

All the above items can be added to a wide mouthed mud pot, concrete tank or plastic can as per the above order. The container should be kept open under the shade. The content is to be stirred twice a day both in the morning and evening. The Panchakavya stock solution will be ready after 30 days.It should be kept in the shade and covered to prevent houseflies from laying eggs and the formation of maggots in the solution. If sugarcane juice is not available, add 500gm of jaggery dissolved in 3 liter of water.

Physical chemical and biological properties of Panchakavya

Chemical composition

pH

4.45

EC dSm2

9.20

N (ppm)

225

P (ppm)

200

K (ppm)

230

Sodium

85

Calcium

22

IAA (ppm)

8

GA (ppm)

3

Microbial Load

Fungi

38800/ml

Bacteria

1880000/ml

Lactobacillus

2260000/ml

Total anaerobes

10000/ml

Acid formers

360/ml

Methanogen

250/ml

Physical-chemical properties of Panchakavya revealed that they possess almost all the major nutrients, micro nutrients and growth hormones required for crop growth. The predominance of fermentativ microorganisms like yeast and lactobacillus might be due to the combined effect of low pH, milk products and the addition of sugar cane juice as substrate for their growth.

The low pH of the medium was due to the production of organic acids by the fermentativ microbes as evidenced by the population dynamics and organic detection in GC analysis. Lactobacillus produces various beneficial metabolites such as organic acids, hydrogen peroxide and antibiotics, which are effective against other pathogenic microorganisms besides its growth. GC-MS analysis resulted in following compounds of fatty acids, alkanes, alconol and alcohols.

SNo

Fatty acids

Alkanes

Alconol and Alcohols

1.

Oleic acids

Decane

Heptanol

2.

Palmitic acid

Octane

Tetracosanol

3.

Myristic

Heptane

Hexadecanol

4.

Deconore

Hexadecane

Octadeconol

5.

Deconomic

Oridecane

Methanol, Propanol, Butanol and Ethanol

6.

Octanoic

7.

Hexanoic

8.

Octadeconoic

9.

Tetradeconoic

10.

Acetic, propionic, butyric, caproic and valeric acids

4. Dosage

Spray system

3% solution was found to be most effective compared to the higher and lower concentrations investigated, 3 liters of Panchagavya to every 100 liters of water is ideal for all crops. The power sprayers of 10 liters capacity may need 300 ml/tank. When sprayed with power sprayer, sediments are to be filtered and when sprayed with hand operated sprayers, the nozzle with higher pore size has to be used.

Drip system 

The solution of Panchakavya can be mixed with irrigation water at 50 liters per hectare either through drip irrigation or flow irrigation

Seed treatment

3% solution of Panchakavya can be used to soak the seeds or dip the seedlings before planting. Soaking for 20 minutes is sufficient. Rhizomes of Turmeric, Ginger and sets of Sugarcane can be soaked for 30 minutes before planting.

Stages of use

1.

Pre flowering phase

Once in 15 days, two sprays depending upon duration of crops

2.

Flowering and pod setting stage

Once in 10 days, two sprays

3.

Fruit/Pod maturation stage

Once during pod maturation

The results of using Panchakavya on

Leaf

Plants sprayed with Panchakavya invariably produce bigger leaves and develop denser canopy. The photosynthetic system is activated for enhanced biological efficiency, enabling the synthesis of maximum metabolites and photosynthates.

Stem

The trunk produces side shoots, which are sturdy and capable of carrying maximum fruits to maturity. Branching is comparatively high.

Roots

The root is profuse and dense. Further they remain fresh for a long time. The roots spread and grow in deeper layers were also observed. All such roots help maximum intake of nutrients and water.

Produce

There will be a yield depression under normal circumstances, when the land is converted to organic farming from inorganic systems of culture. The key feature of Panchakavya is its efficacy to restore the yield level of all crops when the land is converted from the inorganic cultural system to organic culture from the very first year. The harvest is advanced by 15 days in all the crops.It not only enhances the shelf life of vegetables, fruits and grains, but also improves the taste. By reducing or replacing costly chemical inputs, Panchakavya ensures higher profit and liberates the organic farmers from the loan.

Drought

A thin oily film is formed on the leaves and stems, thus reducing the evaporation of water. The deep and extensive roots developed by the plants allow to withstand long dry periods. Both the above factors contribute to reduce the irrigation water requirement by 30% and to ensure drought hardiness.

Panchakavya is easy to prepare, environment friendly, economically viable biofertilizer. Can reduce and replace the use of chemicals.

Right time to fertilize an Apple Tree

Posted on | October 2, 2013 | No Comments

Lots of growers get confused and many don’t know exactly when to apply fertilizers to apple tree, due to which they suffer because of bad crops. Apple trees require nutrients to live, grow and produce crops. Due to a deficiency of one or more of these nutrients in the soil, the tree grow and produce expected crop, and will be more prone to disease and pest problems, as a result  will have a shorter life span than a well fertilized tree. The nutrients required by most of plants on earth, including apple trees, can be divided into two parts: macronutrients and micronutrients, which is based upon the quantity necessary for survival and growth. Macronutrients are required by plants in greater quantities than micronutrients. The macronutrients required by plants for growth include nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S). The addition of macronutrients, especially nitrogen, can result in improved growth while deficiencies can lead to slower growth and many visible symptoms. Micronutrients, which are required in very small amounts, include iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), boron (B), chlorine (Cl), and molybdenum (Mo).

Both organic and inorganic (synthetic) fertilizers can be used to supply plant nutrients (Please read Know your fertilizer on www.himachalfruits.com).

How to determine the need for fertilizers?

Trees are often under high stress conditions due to many reasons which depends on environment condition e.g. low moisture availability, soil compaction, physical damage and competition from nearby trees, shrubs and weeds. The best indicator of whether fertilization is necessary is a soil test (please read http://blog.himachalfruits.com/?p=116).

In case where soil test cannot be done, the best indicator of the need for additional fertilization of established trees is shoot growth. If new shoot growth occurring in the present year is in excess of 6 inches, then fertilization is probably unnecessary. If shoot growth is between 2 and 6 inches then fertilizer may be applied and, if shoot growth is under 2 inches, then fertilizer applications are appropriate.

Foliage color is another indicator of the need for fertilization. Yellow or “off-color” leaves may indicate the need for fertilization as these symptoms generally occur on trees which are not taking up enough of one or more required nutrient. A final indicator of the need for fertilization is the history of the farm. Trees on farms that are fertilized for turf on a regular basis rarely need to have supplemental fertilizer applied. Supplemental fertilizer should only be considered if shoot growth is less than 2 inches, or if a soil test reveals a specific nutrient deficiency.

Yellowing may be due to a variety of nutrient deficiencies. The most common reason for yellowing foliage is a lack of iron and occasionally manganese. Deficiencies of these elements are commonly due to a high pH (7.0 or higher) rather than a lack of these nutrients in the soil. Because different trees do well at different pH levels, it is strongly recommended that soils be checked for pH before planting.

Best time to fertilize Tree

Newly Planted Trees

Requires higher nitrogen until they are 3 years old but care should be taken to apply nitrogen based fertilizers on tow condition 1. Soil Test 2. If growth in new trees is not normal e.g new plant or its shoots should grow between 12 and 18 inches. Application of fertilizers can be done as broadcast, or sprinkle (in ratio with soil test) or organic fertilizers, manure,bone meal application can be done after every 90-120 days for good and stout growth. Important time for application of fertilizer in new trees are March, June & September.

Matured Apple Trees

After Bud Break – Early Spring- Is the best time to fertilize mature trees or right as the flowers appear in the apple tree.

Early summer Fertilization-Can be done either depending on the deficiency or by looking at the growth of fruit and tree. Most of  horticulturists fertilize trees throughout the spring. Fertilizing in summer inhibits the tree’s ability to stay hydrated.

Post- Harvest fertilization-Early in the new season deciduous plants rely on the nutrients stored from the previous autumn for flowering and to develop new leaves. Post-harvest fertilizer applications are often beneficial as they ensure adequate nutrient storage for the following spring. After harvest trees quickly reduce water uptake and after leaf fall tree water use drops to almost nil.
As a result, fertilizer uptake late in the season is slow and it pays to apply fertilizer as soon after harvest as possible. If it is applied too late for tree uptake, winter rainfall will leach any fertilizer residues from the soil or the tree will enter in dormancy late.

How about fall and winter fertilizing?

Fall fertilization is ineffective as the tree is entering a dormant, and not a growth period.

In winters the tree goes into dormancy, it ceases photosynthesis. The chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down, making sugars that go back into the fruit tree’s limbs, trunk and roots. And thus fertilizing in winter is ineffective.

Winters or Dormancy is the best time to apply manure than Water Soluble fertilizers

When to Apply Manure-Apply 1 to 2 inches of well rotted-manure in February while the tree is still dormant and again in June. You should wait until the year after planting to start fertilizing. If you live in a warmer region with mild winters and little danger of frost zones 9 or 10 and up you can apply manure three times a year: in Febraury, June and August.

Manure Facts- It doesn’t matter what kind of manure you use (horse, chicken, cow, rabbit or goat) but it needs to be well rotten. Well rotten manure looks like black soil and has no smell. Never use fresh manure as it contains high ammonia, which can give root burns and can damage trees. Well rotten manure is considered an organic fertilizer and adds nitrogen, potassium and other nutrients to the soils. It also adds organic matter that helps loosen the soil, increases the oxygen content attracts earthworms and increase useful bacteria in soil.

Manure Classifications

Organic Manure-What goes in the cow, comes out of the cow. Cattle who eat inorganic matter or chemicals, such as bovine growth hormone, will not produce organic manure. Further, inorganic dung cannot be used in organic farming, as it may pass on the inorganic elements to the vegetation through the soil.

Mixed Manure-Cow manure mixed with other materials, such as straw or sawdust. While this type of dung may be good for composting –because of its rich blend of nitrogen and carbon.

Manure Age-Freshly produced manure often contains ammonia that can hurt seedlings or plants. Aging manure for 60 days or more, will allow harmful chemicals to break down, as well as for its nutrients to grow. Also aging minimizes the risk of E. coli bacteria.

Important Note : Purchase Manure/compost from trust able source. (For product information please visit www.himachalfruits.com)

TRICHODERMA IN ORGANIC AGRICULTURE

Posted on | September 30, 2013 | No Comments

Biocontrol, or Biological Control, can be defined as the use of natural organisms, or genetically modified, genes or gene products, to reduce the effects of undesirable organisms to favour organisms useful to human, such as crops, trees, animals and beneficial microorganisms. This strategy of control is ecologicaly clean and compatible with different models of agriculture: organic, biological and integrated pest/pathogen management (IPM) programmes.

The main antagonist used in disease control in Agriculture is the fungus Trichoderma harzianum Rifai, a low cost biocontrol agent that can establish itself in different pathosystems, has moderate effects on soil balance and does not harm benefitial organims that contribute towards pathogen’scontrol. This biocontrol agent has not harmful effects on humans, wild life and other beneficialorganisms. T. harzianum is a safe and effective biocontrol agent in both natural and controlled environments that does not accumulate in the food chain and to which it has not been described resistance.

Trichoderma strains used as biocontrol agents can act:

a) Colonizing the soil and/or parts of the plant, occupying a physical space and avoiding the multiplication of the pathogens;

b) Producing cell wall degrading enzymes against the pathogens; c) producing antibiotics that can kill the pathogens;

d) Promoting the plant development and e) inducing the defensive mechanisms of the plant.

 Antifungal formulations based on Trichoderma strains and proteins require, as in the case of chemical fungicides, a costly and sound registration process previous to their commercialization. For

this reason, many of these biological products are being offered to the farmers under the category of fertilizers and other commercial products that are not tightly regulated, and, hence, they do not offer sufficient guarantee of quality and sanitary control.

INTRODUCTION

Trichoderma is a fungal genus that was described in 1794, including anamorphic fungi isolated primarily from soil and decomposing organic matter. Strains within this genus include a wide spectrum of evolutionary solutions that range from very effective soil colonizers with high biodegradation potential, to non-strict plant symbionts that colonize the rhizosphere. Species concepts within Trichoderma are very wide, which has resulted in the recognition of many infraspecific groups. Some groups of biotypes within this conglomerate are able to antagonize phytopathogenic fungi by using substrate colonization, antibiosis and/or mycoparasitism as the main mechanisms. This antagonistic potential is the base for effective applications of different Trichoderma strains as an alternative to the chemical control against a wide set of fungal plant pathogens. As a consequence of the variety of activities displayed by the

Trichoderma strain conglomerate, a large range of applications have been developed: the antagonistic potential is the basis for the effective control of a wide set of phytopathogenic fungi and the biodegradative capacity is a source of useful enzymes in different industrial.

MECHANISMS OF ACTION

The choice of active Trichoderma strains is important in designing effective and safe biocontrol strategies. Many species of Trichoderma have multiple strategies for fungal antagonism, and indirect effects on plant health (such as plant growth promotion effects and fertility improvements) also vary. Some strains are potent antibiotic producers, and their suitability for use in biocontrol systems must be carefully assessed. However, many other active strains have no antibiotic capacity,and these are likely to be more useful in food production systems. Trichoderma biocontrol strains

have evolved numerous mechanisms for both attacking other fungi and enhancing plant and root growth . The colonization of the root system by rhizosphere competent strains of Trichoderma results in increased development of root and/or aerial systems and crop. Other activities, like the induction of plant systemic resistance and antagonistic effects on plant pathogenic nematodes , have also been described. These facts strongly suggest that during the plant-Trichoderma interactions, the fungus participates actively in protecting and improving its ecological niche. The dual roles of antagonistic activity against plant pathogens and promotion of soil fertility make Trichoderma strains appealing alternatives to soil fumigation technologies such as methyl bromide.

Strains of Trichoderma may also be aggressive biodegraders and act as competitors to fungal pathogens in their saprofitic phases, especially when nutrients are a limiting factor .Strains have been reported as promoting activities of nonpathogenic bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi ,the ability of Trichoderma strains to synthesize substances inducing SAR-like responses in plants was shown. Molecules produced by Trichoderma and/or its metabolic activity also have potential for promoting plant growth. Application of the species T. harzianum to plants resulted in improved seed germination, increased plant size, and augment of leaf area and weight. The scenario of combined systemic biofungicides and plant growth promoters has great market potential if the molecular basis of the activities can be identified.

The strong biodegradation and substrate colonization performances of Trichoderma strains is the strong biodegradation and substrate colonization performances of Trichoderma strains is the result of an amazing metabolic versatility and a high secretory potential which leads to the production of a complex set of hydrolytic enzymes. Similarly, the mycoparasitic process is based on the secretion of a rich cocktail of cell wall degrading enzymes (CWDEs) able to hydrolize the cell wall of various hosts. Among others, chitinases, b-1,3- glucanases , b-1,6-glucanases,a-1,3-glucanases  and proteases have been described as important components of the multi-enzymatic system of  Trichoderma strains. Some of these proteins display strong antifungal activities when are applied  in vitro, alone and/or combined, against plant pathogens. Some lytic enzymes can be involved in both antagonistic and saprophytic processes providing an evolutionary advantage to strains with both biodegrading and antagonistic potential, for the efficient colonization of different ecological niches in soil. A principal role in mycoparasitism has been attributed to chitinases and glucanases . However, fungal proteases may also be significantly involved in cell wall degradation, since fungal cell walls contain chitin and glucan polymers embedded in and covalently linked to a protein matrix .

The production of secondary metabolites by  Trichoderma strains also shows great variety and application potential. Trichoderma strains seem to be an inexhaustible source of antibiotics, from the acetaldehydes gliotoxin and viridin, to alpha-pyrones, terpenes, polyketides, isocyanide derivatives, piperacines, and complex families of peptaibols . All these compounds produce synergistic effects in combination with CWDEs, with strong inhibitory activity on many fungal plant pathogens. The potential of genes involved in biosynthetic pathways of antibiotics and peptaibols with applications in human and veterinary medicine is not been explored yet.

Trichoderma is not only a good biocontrol agent, but also a general fertility promoter. In the absence of pathogens, application of appropriate Trichoderna formulations (following solarization and/or preceding fumigation with authorized and environmentally-friendly chemicals) can also serve to promote plant growth and crop precocity, increase fruit production and reduce chemical treatments.

SELECTION OF TRICHODERMA STRAINS

Once active strains have been identified with the in vitro assays, a further selection must be done by studying other factors such as:

 1) Activity in vivo using experimentally induced diseases on plants,

2) Tolerance of high or low temperatures (necessary to survive other IPM treatments),

3) Suitability for formulation as foliar sprays and/or soil enhancements (e.g. high sporulation levels,rapid growth in bulk conditions),

4) specificity (strains should be inactive against beneficial organisms and plant crops),

5) long-term survival in field conditions,

6) interactions with other Trichoderma  strains already present in the cropping systems,

7) compatibility with agrochemicals used in the crop, or

8) shelflife and inoculum efficacy under commercial conditions.

TRICHODERMA IN AVOCADO PROTECTION

We have developed a biocontrol formulation, based on Trichoderma conidia, that was tested with satisfactory results.against the main avocado root pathogens:  Phytophthora cinnamomi and Dematophora necatrix in plantations maintained in the ecological conditions of Motril (Granada,Spain). D. necatrix is more resistant than P. cinnamomi to the action of Trichoderma biocontrol strains. However, being more difficult, the control by Trichoderma of root diseases caused by D.necatrix is effective .

TRICHODERMA PROTEIN FORMULATIONS

Trichoderma protein extracts with high glucanase and chitinase activities, directly obtained fromwild type strains, have been demonstrated to be effective as biofungicides. They can also be combined with chemicals (carbendazim, iprodione) with synergistic effects, and are stable enough to be considered for commercial application. We have investigated the antifungal properties of the proteins produced by Trichoderma species in laboratory and field conditions, defining the concentration of protein necessary to produce fungicide effects. It is recommended that any protein formulations contains at least one enzyme from each of the following classes: endochitinase, exochitinase, endoglucanase, exoglucanase (ß-1,3 plus ß-1,6), proteases and cellulalase (endocellulase). More than two enzymes from each class did not provide additional anti-fungal effect. In the field trials carried out with Trichoderma protein extracts, increased average weight of both roots and fruit per plant was detected in plots treated with Trichoderma proteins. The protein filtrates increased the total useful fruit weight by increasing the number of fruits of commercial size. These tests showed that Trichoderma chitinases and glucanases have no effect on the plant even if relatively large quantities are injected into plant tissues. CWDEs are not harmful to humans and animals, as indicated by eco-toxicological tests for registration of strains of Trichoderma for use as biocontrol agents in USA and the EU, and degrade into environmentally friendly residues. CWDEs can be effectively combined with whole-organism Trichoderma control, with considerable opportunities for synergism. CWDEs are particularly suited to post-harvest control.

The genes coding for protein production can be introduced into suitable organisms to be used ascell factories for large-scale production of CWDEs.

TRICHODERMA GENES

Several methods for applying both biocontrol and plant growth promotion exerted by Trichoderma strains have recently been demonstrated and it is now clear that hundreds of separate genes and gene products are involved in the processes of mycoparasitism, antibiosis, competition for nutrients or space, tolerance to stress through enhanced root and plant development, stabilization and sequestration of inorganic nutrients, induced resistance and inactivation of enzymes produced by pathogens (Monte 2001). Some of these genes have been identified, cloned from Trichoderma spp. (that offer great promise as transgenes to produce crops that are resistant to plant diseasessince transgenic expression of high levels of chitinolytic and glucanolytic Trichoderma enzymes do

not affect plant morphology, development or yield, or infection by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi),patented and used to transgenically increase plant disease resistance (Lorito et al. 1998), but most of them are still unexploited for developing new biotechnologies.

Acknowledgements

We want to thank the staff of Newbiotechnic S.A. (NBT), Seville (Spain), for their contribution to theproduction of Trichoderma formulations and generation of results necessary to write this manuscript.

Fertilizers what to use ?

Posted on | August 2, 2013 | No Comments

Use of Inorganic Fertilizers and Organic Fertilizers

Every fertilizer supply plants with the nutrients your farm needs to be healthy state. However, organic and inorganic fertilizers supply nutrients to soil in different ways. Organic fertilizers create a healthy environment in/for the soil over a long period of time, while inorganic fertilizers work much more quickly, but fail to create a sustainable environment. Choose the one that best fits your needs, or we suggest to consider combining them to get the best of both options.

What are Organic and Inorganic Fertilizers ?

Organic fertilizers are composed of natural ingredients from plants or animals. Examples include manure and plant parts such as leaves and peanut hulls. Compost, a blend of plant debris broken down by natural processes, is also considered a natural or organic fertilizer. Inorganic fertilizers, on the other hand, are manufactured from minerals or synthetic chemicals. Both organic and inorganic fertilizers supplement the soil and feed plants with nutrients. Macronutrients — those nutrients that plants require in large amounts — include nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and are listed as percentages on the fertilizer bag.

The advantages and disadvantages

There are benefits and what some may consider disadvantages of organic and inorganic fertilizers. Deciding which kind to use may depend on your horticultural situation. According to North Carolina State University, organic matter in natural fertilizers promotes an environment conducive for earthworms and increases the capacity for holding water and nutrients. Organic fertilizers release nutrients slowly, relying on soil organisms to break down organic matter. A slow-release scenario decreases the risk of nutrient leaching but takes time to supply nutrients to plants. Inorganic fertilizers contain a higher percentage of nutrients and provide them more quickly than organic fertilizers. This is a benefit for plants with a short life span, such as bedding plants, but the concentrated form increases the risk of burning the plant if applied incorrectly, and the quick-release of nutrients may result in soil leaching.

Effectiveness in Long-term

Research comparing organic and inorganic fertilizers provides compelling evidence that organic fertilizers bolster soil health over the long term. In a study conducted in Sweden over 32 years, scientists Artur Granstedt and Lars Kjellenberg reported on the differences in soil structure and crop quality between an organic and inorganic system. They found that soil in the organic system had higher fertility, and organic crops had higher yields and starch content than the inorganic system. In contrast, long-term use of synthetic fertilizers depletes soil organisms of the organic matter they need, states the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. Eventually, these organisms disappear in soils dependent on inorganic fertilizers.

 

Integrated Approach

It does not have to be either organic or inorganic fertilizer. An integrated approach blends the use of both. A study published in 2009 described the benefits of an integrated system on rice fields in India. The authors found that a combination of organic and synthetic fertilizers resulted in yields that increased over five years. They concluded that an integrated approach improved the capacity of the soil to supply nutrients. A blend of both organic and inorganic fertilizers may suit your landscape.

Organic Farming

Posted on | July 2, 2013 | No Comments

The approach and outlook towards agriculture and marketing of food has seen a quantum change worldwide over the last few decades. Whereas earlier the seasons and the climate of an area determined what would be grown and when, today it is the “market” that determines what it wants and what should be grown. The focus is now more on quantity and “outer” quality (appearance) rather than intrinsic or nutritional quality, also called “vitality”. Pesticide and other chemical residues in food and an overall reduced quality of food have led to a marked increase in various diseases, mainly various forms of cancer and reduced bodily immunity. This immense commercialisation of agriculture has also had a very negative effect on the environment. The use of pesticides has led to enormous levels of chemical buildup in our environment, in soil, water, air, in animals and even in our own bodies. Therefore Organic Farming is very Necessary.

To keep and build good soil structure and fertility, the methods and materials that organic farmers use is :

• Recycled and composted crop wastes and animal manures

• The right soil cultivation at the right time

• Crop rotation

• Green manures and legumes

• Mulching on the soil surface

 To control pests, diseases and weeds:

• Careful planning and crop choice

• The use of resistant crops

• Good cultivation practice

• Crop rotation

• Encouraging useful predators that eat pests

• Increasing genetic diversity

• Using natural pesticides

 A modern approach to farming

Organic farming does not mean going ‘back’ to traditional methods. Many of the farming methods used in the past are still useful today. Organic farming takes the best of these and combines them with modern scientific knowledge. Organic farmers do not leave their farms to be taken over by nature; they use all the knowledge, techniques and materials available to work with nature. In this way the farmer creates a healthy balance between nature and farming, where crops and animals can grow and thrive. To be a successful organic farmer, the farmer must not see every insect as a pest, every plant out of place as a weed and the solution to every problem in an artificial chemical spray. The aim is not to eradicate all pests and weeds, but to keep them down to an acceptable level and make the most of the benefits that they may provide.

 Combined techniques

On an organic farm, each technique would not normally be used on its own. The farmer would use a range of organic methods at the same time to allow them to work together for the maximum benefit. For example the use of green manures and careful cultivation, together provide better control of weeds than if the techniques were used on their own.

 Benefits of Organic farming

Organic farming provides long-term benefits to people and the environment, it aims to:

• Increase long-term soil fertility.

• Control pests and diseases without harming the environment.

• Ensure that the water stays unpolluted  and safe.

• Use resources which the farmer already has, this saves money.

• Produce nutritious food, feed for animals and high quality crops to sell at a good price.

 Modern, intensive agriculture causes many problems, including the following:

• Artificial fertilizers and herbicides are easily washed from the soil and results pollute rivers, lakes and watercourses.

• The prolonged use of artificial fertilizers results in soil depletion.

• Dependency on fertilizers, every year to produce the same yields of crops.

• Artificial pesticides can stay in the soil for a long time and enter the food chain where they build up in the bodies of animals and humans, causing health problems.

• Artificial chemicals destroy soil micro-organisms resulting in the poor soil structure and aeration and decreasing nutrient availability.

• Pests and diseases become more difficult to control as they become resistant to artificial pesticides.

 Crop nutrition

To produce a healthy crop an organic farmer needs to manage the soil well. This involves considering soil life, soil nutrients and soil structure. Artificial fertilizers provide only short term nutrient supply to crops. They encourage plants to grow quickly but with soft growth which is less able to withstand drought, pests and disease.  Artificial fertilizers do not feed the soil life and do not add organic matter to the soil. This means that they do not help to build good soil structure, improve the soil water holding capacity or drainage. The soil is a living system. As well as the particles that make up the soil, it contains millions of different creatures. These creatures are very important for recycling nutrients. Feeding the soil with manure or compost feeds the whole variety of life in the soil which then turns this material into food for plant growth. This also adds nutrients and organic matter to the soil. Green manures also provide nutrients and organic matter. These are plants with high nitrogen content that are shown as part of a rotation and are dug into the soil when young. It is important to remember, however, that using too much animal manure or nutrient rich organic matter, or using it at the wrong time, could be as harmful as using man-made, artificial fertilizers. The organic farmer must cultivate the soil at the right time and in the right ways to provide the best living conditions for the soil life and plant roots.

 Choice of crops

Each crop and crop variety has its own specific needs. In some places it will grow well and others it will not. Crops are affected by;

• Soil type

• Rainfall

• Altitude

• Temperature

• The type and amount of nutrients required

• The amount of water needed

These factors affect how a crop grows and yields. If a crop is grown in a climate to which it is not suited, it is likely to produce low yields and be more susceptible to pest and diseases. This then creates the need to use agro-chemicals to fertilize the crop and control pest and diseases.

The successful organic farmer learns to grow the crops and varieties which are suited to the local conditions. He should grow crops which are suited to his geography and climate. He should choose varieties which are suited to the local conditions such as local varieties.

 Rotating Crops

Growing the same crops in the same site year after year reduces soil fertility and can encourage a build up of pests, diseases and weeds in the soil. Crops should be moved to a different area of land each year, and not returned to the original site for several years. For vegetables a 3 to 4 year rotation is usually recommended as a minimum.

Crop rotation means having times where the fertility of the soil is being built up and times where crops are grown which remove nutrients. Crop rotation also helps a variety of natural predators to survive on the farm by providing diverse habitats and sources of food for them.

A typical 4 year rotation would include a cycle with maize and beans, a root crop and cereals with either of the following;

1. Grass or bush fallow (period where no crops are grown).

2.A Legume crop where a green manure, which is a plant grown mainly for the benefit of the soil, is grown .

 Composting

Compost is organic matter (plant and animal residues) which has been rotted down by the action of bacteria and other organisms, over a period of time. Materials such as leaves, fruit skins and animal manures can be used to make compost. Compost is cheap, easy to make and is a very effective material that can be added to the soil, to improve soil and crop quality.

• Improves the structure of the soil, allows more air into the soil, improves drainage and reduces erosion.

• Improves soil fertility by adding nutrients and by making it easier for plants to take up the nutrients already in the soil. This produces better yields.

• Compost improves the soil’s ability to hold water. This stops the soil from drying out in times of drought.

• Compost can reduce pests and diseases in the soil and on the crop.

 There are many ways to make compost depending on available materials and climate, for example:

• Indore method

• Bangalore method

• Heating process/Block method

• Chinese high temperature stack

• Pit composting

• Trench composting

• Basket composting

• Boma composting

 Composting in the pit

Compost has many advantages over chemical fertilizers. These provide nutrients for plants but do not improve soil structure. They usually only improve yields in the season in which they are applied. Because compost feeds soil life and improves soil structure, the beneficial effects are long lasting.

 Mulching

Mulching means covering the ground with a layer of loose material such as compost, manure, straw, dry grass, leaves or crop residues. Green vegetation is not normally used as it can take a long time to decompose and can attract pests and fungal diseases.

 The effect  of mulches on the soil which help to improve plant growth:

• Decreasing water loss due to evaporation

• Reducing weed growth by reducing the amount of light reaching the soil

• Preventing soil erosion

• Increasing the number of micro-organisms in the top soil

• Adding nutrients to the soil and improving soil structure

• Adding organic matter to the soil

Alternative mulching materials include black plastic sheeting or cardboard. However these materials do not add nutrients to the soil or improve its structure.

 How to mulche

• Always apply mulch to a warm, wet soil. Mulch applied to a dry soil will keep the soil dry.

• Care should be taken as to the thickness of the mulch applied. Too much mulch will prevent air flow and encourage pests.

• To allow the germination of plants seeds through the mulch, a layer of less than 10cm should be used.

• To clear an area of land of persistent weeds a layer of 10cm or more can be used.

 Mulching with large leaves

 Green manures

Green manure, also called a cover crop, is a great way to add nutrients to the soil. Green manure means planting a crop that is meant to be incorporated into the soil to increase it’s fertility. Green manures can be planted in the fall after the herbs have been harvested. You can also plant your green manures as part of your crop rotation during the growing season. If you plant your green manure to grown all fall and winter, it also doubles as a cover crop and helps keep the rich topsoil from being washed away.You turn the green manure crop into the soil in the early spring. This is done when the soil is not warm enough to plant but is dry enough not not get compacted by working with it. If you have heavy soil, you will want to turn the green manure into the soil later in the fall so that it decomposes over the winter. It is better than working with wet, heavy soil. You should not walk on or try to work with wet soil if at all possible.

Plantation Green Manure

To plant green manure properly, you will want to do so when it is going to rain. It is essential that the seed not dry out during the germination period. For a small herb garden, you can broadcast(or spread) the seeds by hand in an even manner. Mixing the seeds with sand or soil before spreading helps you have more control over where it goes. After you spread the seeds, rake the soil to cover them sufficiently for germination.

 Kinds Of Green Manure

 There are two types of green manures: Legumes and Non-legumes.

 Legumes are plants whose roots work with the bacteria in the soil to grab Nitrogen in the atmosphere. This is called Nitrogen fixating, and is helped along by an inoculation, or treatment medium to help the legumes work. Inoculate is available at garden centers in a powder form, and will greatly improve your yields if used. Some legume green manures are Alfalfa, clover and soybeans.

Non-legumes are all other green manures like Rye grass, Buckwheat and Oats. There is a form of Rye called Winter Rye, that will grow in the coldest of zones and be ready to turn under in early spring. No matter what zone you are gardening in, you will find numerous green manures to fit your needs. This is another reason that your county extension office is a treasure of information . Your county extension agent should be able to identify the best green manures for your area.

Inter-cropping is the practice of growing two or more crops in proximity. Inter-cropping of compatible plants also encourages biodiversity, by providing a habitat for a variety ofinsects and soil organisms that would not be present in a single-crop environment. This biodiversity can in turn help to limit outbreaks of crop pests (Altieri 1994) by increasing the diversity or abundance of natural enemies, such as spiders or parasitic wasps.

Pest Control Intercropping Matrix

Pest Reduced

Crop

Inter crop With

Function Of Intercrop

Aphids

Bean Aphid

Apple

Eryngium sp.

Parasitic Wasp Increase

Green Peach Aphid

Phacelia sp.

Parasitic Wasp Increase

Pea Aphid

Barley

Alfalfa

Parasitic Wasp Increase

Woolly Apple Aphid

Red Clover

Parasitic Wasp Increase

Parasitic Wasp Increase

Brussels Sprouts

White Clover

Visual Masking

Clover

Physical Interference

Visual Masking

French Beans

Physical Interference

Cabbage

Red Clover

Physical Interference

White Clover

Predator Increase

Cauliflower

Corn Spurry

Predator Increase

Red Clover

Physical Interference

White Clover

Predator Increase

Collards

Weedy ground cover

Parasitic Wasp Increase

French Beans

Weedy ground cover

Physical Interference

General Organic Garden Crops

Queen Anne’s Lace

Trap Crop

Parasitic Wasp Increase

Lamb’s Quarter

Trap Crop

Annual Sow thistle

Trap Crop

Kale

Kale

Visual Masking

Red Clover

Predator Increase

Squash

Catnip

Chemical Repellent

Tansy

Chemical Repellent

 Pest and disease control naturally

Pests and diseases are part of nature. In the ideal system there is a natural balance between predators and pests. If the system is imbalanced then one population can become dominant because it is not being preyed upon by another. The aim of natural control is to restore a natural balance between pest and predator and to keep pests and diseases down to an acceptable level. The aim is not to eradicate them altogether.

 Grasshoppers, slugs, termites, aphids and types of caterpillars are pests  Ladybirds, spiders, ground beetles,parasitic wasps and praying mantis are predators.

Chemical control

Pesticides do not solve the pest problem. In the past 50 years, insecticide use has increased tenfold, while crop losses from pest damage have doubled. Here are three important reasons why natural control is preferable to pesticide use.

 Controlling weeds

In organic farming systems, the aim is not necessarily the elimination of weeds but their control. Weed control means reducing the effects of weeds on crop growth and yield. Organic farming avoids the use of herbicides which, like pesticides, leave harmful residues in the environment. Beneficial plant life such as host plants for useful insects may also be destroyed by herbicides.

On an organic farm, weeds are controlled using a number of methods:

• Crop rotation

• Hoeing

• Mulches, which cover the soil and stop weed seeds from germinating

• Hand-weeding or the use of mechanical weeders

• Planting crops close together within each bed, to prevent the space for weeds to emerge

• Green manures or cover crops to outcompete weeds

• Soil cultivation carried out at repeated intervals and at the appropriate time, when the soil is moist. Care should be taken that cultivation does not cause soil erosion.

• Animals as weeders to graze on weeds Weeds do have some useful purposes. They can provide protection from erosion, food for animals and beneficial insects and food for human use.

 Safety for people

Artificial pesticides can quickly find their way into food chains and water courses. This can create health hazards for humans. Human health can also be harmed by people eating foods (especially fruit and vegetables) which still contain residues of pesticides that were sprayed on the crop.There is also much concern for those people using chemical pesticides. The products may be misused because the instructions are not written in the language spoken by the person using them. This has led to many accidents such as reports of people suffering from severe skin rashes and headaches as a result of using chemical pesticides.

 Cost

Using natural pest and disease control is often cheaper than applying chemical pesticides because natural methods do not involve buying materials from the outside. Products and materials which are already in the home and around the ,farm are most often used. Safety for the environment There are a number of harmful effects that chemical pesticides can have on the environment:

• Chemical pesticides can kill useful insects which eat pests. Just one spray can upset the balance between pests and the useful predators which eat them.

• Artificial chemicals can stay in the environment and in the bodies of animals causing problems for many years.

• Insect pests can very quickly, over a few breeding cycles, become  resistant to artificial products and are no longer controlled. This means that increased amounts or stronger chemicals are then needed to create further economic, health and environmental problems.

 Natural control

There are many ways in which the organic farmer can control pests and diseases.

• Growing healthy crops that suffer less damage from pests and diseases.

• Choosing crops with a natural resistance to specific pests and diseases.

Local varieties are better at resisting local pest and diseases than introduced varieties.

• Timely planting of crops to avoid the period when a pest does most damage.

• Companion planting with other crops that pests will avoid, such as onion or garlic.

 Genetic diversity

Within a single crop there can be many differences between plants. They may vary in height or ability to resist  diseases, for example. These differences are genetic. Traditional crops grown by farmers contain a greater genetic diversity than modern bred crops. Traditional varieties have been selected over many centuries to meet the requirements of farmers. Although many are being replaced by modern varieties, seeds are often still saved locally. Crops which have been bred by modern breeding methods tend to be very similar and if one plant is prone to disease, all the other plants are as well. Although some modern varieties may be very resistant to specific pests and diseases they are often less suited to local conditions than traditional varieties. It can therefore be dangerous to rely too much on any one of them. In organic systems, some variation or ‘genetic diversity’ among the plants within a crop is beneficial. Growing a number of different crops rather than relying on one is also very important. This helps to protect against pests and diseases and acts as insurance against crop failure in unusual weather such as drought or flood. It is important to remember this when choosing which crops to grow.

An organic farmer should try to:

• Grow a mixture of crops in the same field (mixed cropping, intercropping, strip cropping)

• Grow different varieties of the same crop

• Use as many local crop varieties as possible

• Save the seed of local and improved crop varieties rather than relying on buying seed from outside the farm every year. Exchange of seed with other farmers can also help to increase diversity, and ensure the survival of the many traditional crop varieties which are being lost as they are replaced by a few modern varieties. Strip cropping onions and tomatoes to prevent pest and disease attack .

Chemical Fertilizer vs Organic Fertilizer

Posted on | June 2, 2013 | No Comments

To compare chemical fertilizer vs organic fertilizer, look at both the short term and long term effects of each. Carefully assessing the advantages and disadvantages of both methods will help you decide which method is right for your garden.

Nutrient Release

Organic fertilizers are associated with gradual, slow release of nutrients. This is beneficial to most gardens, as a sudden influx of nutrients can actually be harmful to your plants. Excess nutrient salts can cause fertilizer burn on leaves and roots. Plants may initially exhibit rapid growth of lush, dark green foliage only to later appear scorched or wilted.

The quick release of nutrients associated with chemical fertilizers can also increase nutrient loss during raining or watering. Free mineral salts dissolve easily in water and leach away. This means that chemical fertilizers usually require re-application more frequently than organic alternatives.

Nutrients in organic fertilizers are usually bound up in organic matter and are gradually released over a period weeks, months, or even years as they are processed by soil organisms. In Sustainable Agroecosystem Management: Integrating Ecology, Economics, and Society, authors Bohlen and House assert that the use of organic fertilizer and carbon-based nutrient management systems can reduce nutrient leaching by up to 50 percent compared to conventional farming practices (CRC Press 2009.)

For most gardens, the slow-release approach from organic fertilizer is the most sensible choice both for convenience, plant health, and preservation of water quality.

When plants have been severely nutrient-deprived, however, a quick supply of readily available chemical fertilizer can be the best tonic for rejuvenating growth. If plants have severely yellowed leaves or stunted growth, a small dose of liquid fertilizer will quickly provide the necessary nutrients in an easily absorbed medium.

Plant Growth

Often, plants grown using readily available chemical fertilizer will initially appear taller and healthier than plants grown with organic fertilizer. This rapid growth may be esthetically pleasing, but is less sustainable over the long term than a slow and steady growth rate achieved with organic fertilizer.

Additionally, many chemical fertilizers only contain the nutrients nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. These three nutrients create rapid plant growth, but other minerals such as calcium and magnesium are often overlooked. For optimum plant health and, if you are growing food crops, optimum nutritional value, a complete nutrient profile is preferable. Organic fertilizers, which mimic natural soil conditions, naturally contain a wide array of soil nutrients.

Soil Effects

If there is one thing organic gardeners are more passionate about than their plants it is the health of their soil. Chemical fertilizers provide basic plant nutrition, but do nothing to nourish and protect the viability of the soil.

Ideally, soil is a living, thriving ecosystem, with complex interactions between garden plants, earthworms, microorganisms and fungi. Organic fertilizer adds to this ecosystem, providing aeration, protection, organic matter, and nutrition.

Environmental Effects

For many people, the environmental implications of each fertilizer type are the most important factor. Nutrient leaching is a significant source of water pollution. Organic fertilizers such as well-rotted manure,compost, or other solid organic matter are less prone to nutrient loss than chemical fertilizers.

In addition to preserving clean water, choosing organic fertilizer reduces greenhouse gas production and improves sustainability of the garden as a whole. In a 22-year study comparing chemical fertilizer vs organic fertilizer, researchers found that organic farming practices reduced fossil fuel consumption by 30 percent while increasing organic matter and nitrogen content for long-term soil viability.

Cost

For large agricultural operations, organic farming techniques can be more expensive than conventional farming. In years of drought, however, the increase in organic matter created by organic methods achieve greater yield when soil moisture is a limiting factor. In arid climates, this increased drought resistance may compensate for higher operating costs.

For your home garden, organic fertilizer can be cheap. Compost, animal manure, grass clippings or raked leaves are just a few of the many free soil amendments you can add to your garden soil to increase nutrient content and water retention.

In the end, the choice to use organic or chemical fertilizer remains a personal one. For most home gardeners, the satisfaction, cost effectiveness and long-term sustainability of organic fertilizer makes it a positive and practical option.

 

Pollination friendly Insects-Pollinators

Posted on | April 15, 2013 | No Comments

Pollinators provide an important ecosystem service that is “pollination”. Approximately 85 percent of all flowering plant species are pollinated by animals, including vertebrates and mammals – but the main pollinators are insects. Pollination is responsible for providing us with a wide variety of food, mainly horticultural crops. Pollinators such as bees, birds and bats affect 35 percent of the world’s crop production, increasing outputs of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide, as well as many plant-derived medicines. Pollination is a keystone process in both human managed and natural terrestrial ecosystems. Is an essential service that depends to a large extent on the symbiosis between species, the pollinated and the pollinator in many cases, it is the result of intricate relationships between plants and animals, and the reduction or loss of either will affect the survival of both. Pollination is critical for food production and human livelihoods, and directly links wild ecosystems with agricultural production systems.

Human activity, based on the assumption that pollination is a free and abundantly available ecological service, has put a large pressure on pollinators by both increasing their demand and removing their habitat. Horticulture has rapidly expanded over the last decades, while the landscape has become more uniform due to intensive agriculture. Lack of pollination has increased awareness of the value and management requirements of this service. Effective pollination requires resources, such as refuges of pristine natural vegetation. Where these are reduced or lost, pollinators are becoming scarce and adaptive management practices will be required to sustain food production.

Insect Pollinators

Insects including honeybees, bumblebees, butterflies and moths are vital for the pollination of many cultivated and wild plants. They play a crucial role in the production of agricultural crops such as oilseed rape, raspberries and tomatoes as well as pollinating horticultural plants. Having a healthy population of pollinators is also essential to maintain biodiversity in natural ecosystems. Pollinating insects are vulnerable to pests, diseases and environmental change – threats that have increased over the last five to ten years. The steady decline of these insects over recent years raises significant concern about our ability to feed a growing population set to reach 9 billion by 2050.

1) Plant a garden to attract Pollinator

2) Bee Box  

3) Pesticide & insecticides should be Avoided or Limited

1. Plant a garden to attract Pollinator The most obvious need for pollinating species is a diversity of nectar and pollen sources. Consider the following when choosing plants for your garden:

  • Choose plants that flower at different times of the year to provide nectar and pollen sources throughout the growing season.
  • Plant in clumps, rather than single plants, to better attract pollinators Provide a variety of flower colors and shapes to attract different pollinators.
  • Whenever possible, choose native plants. Native plants will attract more native pollinators and can serve as larval host plants for some species of pollinators.

2) Bee Box

Not every pollinator has the same nesting requirements. Following are some tips on how to provide nesting sites for a variety of pollinators. Keep in mind that nesting habitat for bees as well as egg-laying habitat for butterflies, moths, and other insect pollinators should be located close to good foraging habitat.

Native Bees

Ground nesters

To provide nesting habitat for ground-nesting bees, maintain areas of bare or sparsely vegetated soil. Ground-nesting bees prefer loose, well-drained soil in a sunny spot. Some species nest in flat areas; while others prefer earthen banks, so provide a variety of areas with different slopes if possible, preferably south-facing to maximize exposure to the sun. In areas with healthy, friable soil, clear an area of vegetation at least several yards across. In places where the soil is compacted or otherwise unsuitable, dig out a section 2 to 3 feet deep and replace with sandier loamy soil that is soft enough to dig in but stable enough that burrows won’t collapse. Potential nesting habitat can also be provided with soil-filled planters. Once you have established a nesting area, make sure it does not become overgrown with vegetation or shaded out. To prevent the soil from becoming compacted, do not walk over the area, and do not till or dig it up as that will destroy the nests.

Cavity nesters

Protect nesting sites for wood-boring bees by keeping dead trees, snags, or fallen logs on the land. Some bees will build their nests in old beetle tunnels. In addition, minimize pruning of pithy shrubs, such as elderberry, sumac, or hydrangea from year to year.

Artificial nest sites

In areas where there does not seem to be sufficient natural habitat, you can provide a variety of nesting materials that bees will use.

Bee nesting blocks: Some cavity-nesting bees will use manmade nesting blocks, including the orchard bees used commercially to pollinate apple orchards.  To construct a nest block, use preservative-free wood—4x4s are adequate for blocks with only small nesting holes, but 4x6s are required for larger nesting holes. You can also drill various-sized holes in stumps or old logs.

Making holes of varying depths and diameters in the nest block is often recommended to attract a variety of bee species. There is no “correct” way to do this, so it’s worth experimenting to see what you get.  Nesting holes should be relatively small: 3/32 to about 3/8 inch.  Holes 1/4 inch or less should be 3 to 5 inches deep, while holes larger than 1/4 inch should be 5 to 6 inches deep. The block must be closed at one end and holes should be smooth and placed in from the edge at least 3/4 inch.

Be sure to locate the nest block where it is protected from direct rain and faces south or southeast so it is warmed by the morning sun. Place the block on a firm support 2 to 6 feet above the ground. Bees use landmarks to navigate to and from their nest, so putting the nest block nears a large object (like on a shed or tower) will help them navigate.

Stem bundles: You can also bundle pithy, soft-centered stems together in small packets. Good plants to use include sumac, box elder, elderberry, raspberry, and even phragmites, Japanese knotweed, or old bamboo plant stakes—anything with hollow stems. Cut sections just below a node, place them so that the open ends all face in the same direction, and strap them together. Hang the bundles outside in a sheltered location horizontal to the ground, facing the morning sun.

Bumble bee nesting boxes: Bumble bees, which naturally seek out old underground rodent nests or cavities under grassy tussocks, may find specially constructed boxes suitable for nesting. Typically, they are made of wood and filled with nesting materials such as dried moss or horsehair stuffing from old furniture. It’s not clear how well these artificial nests actually work, but building one can be a fun student project and help raise awareness about the needs of bumble bees and other native pollinators.

Care of artificial nests

Nesting blocks and boxes as well as stem bundles should remain out during the season but can be brought into a protected area for the winter. To prevent disease transmission

Butterflies and Moths

To provide egg-laying habitat for local butterflies and moths, you need to become familiar with the food plants required by their larvae. The caterpillars of each species have specific host plants. Although adult spicebush swallowtails nectar on many different flowers, for example, their caterpillars feed mainly on the leaves of spicebush (Lindera benzoin).

Butterflies and moths lay their eggs directly on their larval food plants, so make sure these species are in close proximity to nectar sources for adults. Occasionally, butterflies and moths will pupate on their food plant, but often they move to another sheltered location or in the leaf litter to pupate. Maintain undisturbed habitat nearby where the caterpillars can safely pupate before emerging as adults.

Insect Pollinators in General

To retain a diversity of nesting materials, avoid excessive raking and manicuring. Different bee species use different materials to construct the brood cells in which their young develop and to seal nests.  For example, leaf cutter bees may use bits of leaves from various shrubs, while other bees may use mud or fine pebbles.

Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are sometimes called hummers, named for the sound made by their wings Hummingbirds are important pollinators, for when they feed their forehead rubs against the stamens and pistils collecting pollen. Like bees and other insect pollinators, they require feeding and nesting habitats in close proximity.  They then move from flower to flower, pollinating as they go. Hummingbirds have quite good memories and will remember food sources from previous years. Attracting hummingbirds is as easy as either planting certain flowers in your garden and/or putting up a hummingbird feeder along with a reliable water source such as a mister or dripper. The diet of hummingbirds requires both an energy source (nectar) and a protein source (small insects).

 

3) Avoid or Limit Pesticide Use Pesticides can kill more than the target pest. Some pesticide residues can kill pollinators for several days after the pesticide is applied. Pesticides can also kill natural predators, which can lead to even worse pest problems. Consider the following when managing pests in your farm:

  • Try removing individual pests by hand if possible (by wearing garden gloves).
  • Encourage native predators with a diverse garden habitat.
  • Expect and accept a little bit of pest activity.
  • If you must use a pesticide, choose one that is the least toxic to non-pest species, does not persist on vegetation, and apply it in the evening when most pollinators are not as active. Read and follow manufacturer label directions carefully.
  • Recommendations for Minimizing Pesticide Impacts to Pollinators. Poisoning of non-target insects, including bees, and other pollinators are more likely to occur when plants are in bloom. Several precautions can minimize the impact to non-target insects and other pollinators.

 

The following are some suggestions that may minimize the impacts of pesticide use to non-target organisms.

  • Apply pesticides only when needed, using pest scouting (routine field checks for the presence/absence of pests) to minimize the need for application.
  • Leave buffer zones between areas of pesticide application and sensitive species, sensitive habitats, water, and potential nectar sources.
  • Use the least toxic pesticide recommended for control of the target pest at the lowest effective rate.
  • Avoid applying pesticides while crops or wildflowers adjacent to or near fields are in bloom.
  • If pesticides must be applied while crops are in bloom, apply in late afternoon or at night when pollinators are least likely to be working the blooms.
  • Always target pesticide applications to avoid contaminating water, habitat of rare species, and adjacent wildflowers.
  • Reduce the amount of drift by using ground equipment instead of aerial spraying to apply pesticides.
  • Avoid drift of pesticides onto plants that are attractive to bees by not spraying under windy conditions.
  • Rinse pesticide tanks thoroughly between pesticide applications to avoid cross-contamination of pesticides.
  • Choose the pesticide formulation least hazardous to bees that will control the pest involved.
  • Use liquid sprays or granules instead of dusts.
  • Avoid use of microencapsulated pesticides, as they are similar in size to pollen, and may cause severe poisonings.
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