The Tour was lead by Everett J Dietrick a entomologist and widely recognized authority on biological control and Naturfarms Pest Control Advisor (PCA). "Deke" joked saying it was easy to be a PCA on an organic farm because people expect to see bugs. Nature Farm is a CCOF certified organic farm. He told us stories of his 50 years of research at the University of California Riverside and how he would monitor and implement strip-cutting and classical biological control releases in unsprayed cotton, citrus and alfalfa.. We walked out into the field as "Deke" talked explaining to us the pros and cons of strip-cutting.
Layout of Pest Break Strips at the Naturefarm
Pest break strips of alfafa ,clover and I seen some yarrow intercropped with organic vegetables. The pest break strips act as a trap crop that divert pests away from the vegetables and at the same time act as insectary crop that will grow benefical insects helping to protect adjacent rows of vegetable crops. Naturefarms uses a practice of cutting only half the pest break strip at any one time This lets some of the strip be in the flower stage and the other half in the vegetative stage. "Deke" pointed out that one could not purchase the numbers of beneficial arthropods that can be grown through this kind of management because the cost would be to high. If fact he joked that could make a good living just selling the beneficial spiders, Parasitic Wasps, Big-eyed Bugs, Lady Beetle and larvae found in the strips. These pest strips become on-farm insectaries, producing numerous beneficial insects close to cash crops.
It is necessary to create permanent or semi-permanent on-farm habitats for beneficial insects, mite and spiders . To be effective pest break strips need to be located in the production area not just as border strips at the field boundaries so as to help distribute beneficial bugs throughout the crop. Some farmers may be tempted to harvest the alfalfa as forage for livestock. The downed plant material that remains in the strip when mowed and not harvested is an important habitat for many larvae of predatory beetles and bugs so it is useful to regard the production of beneficial predator and parasites as a livestock operation.