A group of workshop participants standing around agronomist Kiara Jack, who is explaining about garden pests in the Fresh Roots schoolyard farm.

Exploring Integrated Pest Management with Kiara Jack

On the afternoon of July 9th, 2017, a group of eleven urban farmers and gardeners met at the Van Tech Secondary Fresh Roots Urban Farm for a lively and informative session on integrated pest management (IPM) with agronomist Kiara Jack.

Kiara, who specializes in IPM for potato and vegetable crops, gave us the lowdown on IPM basics, then treated us to an in-field session where we examined a number of insects up close and analyzed their impact on Fresh Roots’ urban farm crops.

So what exactly is integrated pest management? According to Kiara, IPM finds a way to manage all farm pests – insects, weeds, rodents, etc. – in a manner that is sustainable for the environment and economically feasible. Rather than aiming for the complete elimination of pests, IPM works to control pests within a threshold set by the farmer.

Here are a some important things about IPM that we learned from Kiara:

Identification is Key
Knowing what kind of pest you’re dealing with is crucial to managing it. When you can identify a farm pest, you can research the characteristics that will lead to effective treatment. Discovering how an insect interacts with plants in each of its life cycles, how many generations it will go through in a season, where on the plant it typically dwells, and whether it is active during the day or at night is important to devising an IPM strategy.

Kiara Jack examining a strawberry plant for insects.

Kiara Jack examining a strawberry plant for insects.

Practice Good Pest Prevention
When moving between farm sites, change into fresh clothes and clean the soles of your boots in a hydrogen peroxide dip to avoid transporting pests from place to place. Work from the area with the least pests to the area with the most pests. Always use certified clean seed on your farm, and remove and properly compost affected crops at the end of each season to avoid the overwintering of harmful insects.

Get to Know a Variety of Sustainable Pest Management Tools
IPM includes pest management strategies that are physical (using row cover or physically removing insects from the plant), cultural (crop rotation, using varieties resistant to diseases, and amending soil), biological (using flowers to attract beneficial insects who feed on pests), and/or chemical (applying substances such as Bacillus thuringiensis, copper, or sulfur).

Do Your Research
To dig deeper into IPM and get to know how pests may interact with the crops you’ve planted, Kiara recommends checking out field guides from American universities and websites (for example, have a look at this list of IPM publications from the University of Wisconsin). In addition, Kiara suggests reading vegetable production guides from the BC Ministry of Agriculture, and books with a west coast focus such as Linda Gilkeson’s Natural Insect, Weed and Disease Control – check out this title and her other books here.

The Fresh Roots schoolyard farm, with Van Tech Secondary in the background.
Special thanks to Kat Vriesema-Magnuson, Fresh Roots’ Experiential Learning Manager, who kindly welcomed us to the farm space, and to Olga Lansdorp, SPEC’s Climate Change Adaptation for Small Scale Farmers Coordinator, who co-hosted this workshop along with VUFS.

Join us for our next workshop, coming up on August 13, 2017 at Farmers on 57th, where we will be exploring cover crops and taking a farm tour! Register here.