Instead of Using Homemade Sprays, Gardeners Should Make Pest Control Plans, Says Virginia Tech Expert | VTX

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When Virginia Cooperative Extension pesticide safety expert Stephanie Blevins Wycoff noticed damage to her tomato plants last spring, she didn’t look for a pesticide. Instead, she began an investigation to find the culprit and figure out what she needed to do to protect her plants.

“It turned out to be the tomato worm, but by the time I found it, it had been parasitized by insect larvae and was no longer a threat,” Blevins said. Wycoff.

As a Virginia Cooperative Extension scientist, Blevins Wycoff understands the important role all Virginians can play in protecting our Commonwealth’s environment and natural resources. Using pesticides safely, correctly, and only when necessary by developing an integrated pest management plan is one way to advance the well-being of our environment and our communities.

Home gardeners who identify frustrating and destructive garden pests might be tempted to turn to the internet where recipes for homemade pesticide sprays have proliferated in recent years. Although they may be touted as miracle cures, mixtures made from household ingredients like dish soap or vinegar have not been verified for their effectiveness or tested for their potential environmental impacts. They can also damage plants by causing chemical burns.

“Before looking for a chemical, we hope people will try non-chemical control options first. This is where integrated pest management comes in,” said Blevins Wycoff.

Integrated pest management is a holistic and ecological approach to pest control. In this program, a gardener assesses plants to determine what the problem is, monitors damage, determines how low they should act, and tries to prevent pest problems before implementing control methods, such as pesticides. With proper planning, such as encouraging beneficial insects or rotating crops to minimize disease, gardeners can also reduce the number of pest problems they encounter.

Gardeners interested in learning more about an integrated pest management program can read An Introduction to Integrated Pest Management or the 2022 Guide to Pest Management for Land and Pets.

In many cases, pest or disease problems can also be controlled by non-chemical means, for example, by physically removing insects or diseased plant material. By identifying the pests and diseases they encounter in their gardens and carefully watching for signs of these problems, gardeners can stay on top of pests before they damage plants enough to reduce crop yields.

Although they can be annoying or unsightly, in some cases pests or diseases may not cause enough damage to warrant intervention.

If gardeners determine that a pesticide is needed, Blevins Wycoff recommends local Virginia Cooperative Extension offices as the best source of treatment information. As trained experts and members of your community, Master Extension Gardener extension workers and volunteers can help gardeners bring their science ideas to life as they identify pest problems, determine the best course of action and , if necessary, make a recommendation for a specific pesticide application based on the situation.

“Gardeners should be skeptical of anything that promises to be a panacea,” Blevins Wycoff said. “If you apply something that promises to kill all insects, you might also kill beneficial insects. If you have identified a specific pest, you can search for a recording that targets certain pests and will not harm others. ”

Registered pesticides have been tested and approved by the EPA and contain application, efficacy, and first aid information. A lot of infrastructure is in place to ensure that these products are safe and effective when used according to their labels. Extension workers and other educators trained in pesticide safety can help gardeners determine whether pesticides are appropriate and which ones to use.

“Just because you find something on the internet doesn’t mean it’s a good source of information,” Blevins Wycoff said. “Often you may not even need a pesticide to control garden pests. You should always identify your problem exactly before taking action, as you may find that non-chemical control methods are effective. »

If you need help, your local post office can help you. Find your local extension office here.

Master Extension Gardeners are trained volunteer educators who work in communities across the Commonwealth to share knowledge, implement research and manage natural resources through research-based horticultural education. We bring the resources of Virginia’s land-grant universities to the people of the Commonwealth. Contact your local master gardeners through your local extension office or click here to learn more about gardening in Virginia and the Virginia Extension Master Gardener Program.

– Written by Devon Johnson

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