Integrated Pest Management: Keeping Your Crops Safe
About thirty years ago, Cecarelli Farms started working closely with the folks at the University of Connecticut to develop and implement Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
IPM In Action
Integrated Pest Management happens in three basic steps, each of which is activated at a certain pre-determined threshold:
- Prevention: IPM protocols ensure that a reasonable amount of precautions are taken to keep pests off the plants in the first place. That means, for example, putting screen doors on the greenhouses, planting pest-resistant varieties of crops, and rotating crops so no one lot is vulnerable to the same type of pest for several consecutive seasons.
- Identification and Monitoring: Every worker that touches our field is trained to recognize, identify, and report on any organism they find in our fields. Most of them are harmless, but when we do find one that qualifies as a potential threat, we keep a close eye on the situation.
- Taking Control: When a pest does become an actual threat to our produce, we take action; stepping upward through a hierarchy of responses designed to eliminate the threat with a minimum of harm… but to definitely eliminate the threat long-term.
The Power of Predators
The first line of defense against pests in the IPM system is accomplished by keeping plenty of the predators that eat those pests on-hand. Ladybugs eat aphids; Trichogrammatidae wasps actually lay their larvae in insect eggs and kill them before they hatch (and are too small to sting humans, so no risk to our employees, either!) With the right predators on hand, most pests can be handled safely and without a whole lot of work.
Of course, the IPM playbook hardly stops there. If predators can’t do the job, we scale up through several other layers, including:
- Applying insect pheromones or other substances that can keep pests at bay.
- Spraying with biopesticides which break down and are harmless after a short time.
- Spraying with regular pesticides if the crop will not survive without them.
- As a last resort, taking the radical step of quarantining an entire field if necessary to contain a dire threat.
Cecarelli Farms is proud to be one of the pioneers in the implementation of UConn’s IPM program. We plan to continue working with the UConn team for generations to come to ensure that our produce remains pest-free and as fresh and wholesome as it can be.