Integrated Pest Management For Cannabis & Hemp
As the hemp and cannabis industry have grown, and come out of the shadows, the need for sustainable non-toxic pest control methods has grown. No longer are products like fluoromite, avid, eagle 20, etc.. acceptable to use on these crops. It was only a few years ago that these chemical based products were the go to for most growers. Now organically focused IPM control methods are the norm, and most State mandated testing has outlawed anything else.
As consumers have become more educated on what is being used to grow their marijuana products, the adoption of natural pest control methods via IPM programs has gained ground. Using natural and organic insecticides, fungicides, and pesticides is now the industry standard. Real concerns come into play when you talk about concentrating down your marijuana plants. These concentrates will contain concentrated amounts of cannabinoids like THC and CBD, but they will also contain concentrated amounts of anything that was watered in or sprayed on the plants. That's why it is so important for State's to mandate testing that outlaws any kind of chemical pesticide use.
Mode of Action In Organic Pest Control
Mode of action in insecticides is just the manner at which the insecticide kills the pest. Neurotoxins kill by attacking the nervous system of the insect, where as things like pyrethrins are a quick kill knockdown spray that will kill just about any insect it touches. Biological insecticides work by bacteria or fungi attacking the insect in some way whether it be a neurotoxin disruptor or a fungi that grows from the inside out of the pest. Mechanical mode of action can be seen when using products like diatomaceous earth where as the product itself acts as a barrier.
Biological insecticides are actual living organisms or the toxins produced by them. Examples include viruses, bacteria, fungi, and nematodes.
The main benefit of using biological, or microbial, insecticides is their low toxicity to humans and non-target insects. Some of these insecticides are so selective that they affect only one part of the life cycle of the insect, such as the caterpillar (larva) stage of moths and butterflies. The low toxicity also means less risk to groundwater and surface water. There are many well known brands of biological insecticides being used in the cannabis and hemp industry. These include: grandevo, venerate, botanigard, mycotrol, PFR-97, NOLO Baits, Semsaspore, and many more.
Mechanical insecticides would be any insecticide with a mechanical mode of action. One of the most well known Mechanical insecticides is diatomaceous earth. DE is the skeletal remains of algae, a natural silicon dioxide based product with excellent abrasive and absorptive qualities. This product is a chemical free pesticide and can be applied in a number of ways. DE is also a resistance free method of pest control and is a safe, natural product with no added chemicals.
Nematodes are microscopic worm like creatures that can help in the control of soil born pests. Depending on the nematode you choose, you can control many different pest insects. Some common pests seen in indoor marijuana growing that are controlled by nematodes are fungus gnats and root aphids. Reapplication every few months will help to ensure strong populations in your no-till living soil containers or beds. When applying nematodes make sure to cover all of the surface area of the top of your containers as nematodes don't migrate.
Soil Born Pests
Common soil born pests seen in hemp and cannabis production are root aphids and fungus gnats. These both can be controlled with nematodes, biological insecticides, and beneficial insects. Typically a combination of these used in rotation will give the best results as pests can build up resistance to some forms of insecticides.
Leaf Dwelling Pests
Some of the most damaging pests can be leaf born. In the marijuana industry the 2 spotted spider mite has been one of the most common leaf dwelling pests seen. In past years when chemical insecticides were used, the spider mites would evolve to be able to live no matter how many applications were used. These mites were dubbed “super mites”. In as little as 3 or 4 generations growers began to notice that the spider mites were resistant to the chemical sprays no matter how often they were used.
Jump forward a few years, broad mites, hemp russet mites, and cyclamen mites are the new pest that was devastating crops within weeks. Once they got in, and started to multiply, they were nearly impossible to get rid of. Now there are many different types of products on the market that can help with the control and eradication of these hard to deal with pests.
Outdoors, white flies, different types of mites, caterpillars, aphids, grasshoppers, etc.. are all issues for today's hemp and marijuana farmers. With industry wide testing becoming the norm, controlling these leaf dwelling pests with natural products has become a must to stay in business. Regardless of the mode of action chosen, there are many choices when it comes to leaf born pest infestations. The best first line of defense is a proper IPM program be put in place so that infestations never happen.
Fungal diseases wreck havoc on any crop, but when it comes to hemp and marijuana they can take out a grow in a few weeks. Robbing you of hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential income. Proper IPM protocols should always be in place so that fungal diseases like powdery mildew never take root. Fungal spores are all around us all the time. Your job is to make sure that the leaf surface of whatever plants you are growing are inhospitable for the fungal spores to propagate and take over. This can be achieved with contact oil based sprays like neem, green cleaner, horticultural oil, or even regular use of compost teas and lactic acid bacteria serum.
Plant Health Is The First Line Of Defense
Studies have shown that plant health plays a major role in the defense of a mold and pest outbreaks. Pests will seek out crops or single plants that are easier to attack because of deficiencies or stresses. The healthier the plant the more pests find them to not be as edible and tasty. That's how you can see a field ravaged by pests next to a field that is almost totally untouched.
When talking about greenhouse growing, and indoor cannabis cultivation knowing the proper re-entry interval after an organic insecticide product is sprayed is very important. Some natural products have a 0 hour re-entry interval while others may be 4 hours or more. Reading and understanding all labels so that you don't put yourself or others at risk is an important part of being a responsible grower. Just because something is natural and or organic doesn't mean you can just do whatever with said products. Make sure to always follow the label and any State regulations.
Pre-harvest interval is how close you can spray or use a product before harvest. Some products like Green Cleaner can be sprayed the day you harvest. While others have days, weeks, or even months of pre-harvest waiting periods. Again, just because something is natural and or organic doesn't mean you can just use the product with impunity. The type of crop plays a factor in the use of all pesticide products. We need to be especially sensitive to organic pesticide use when a product is being smoked or concentrated down to be ingested by its users.
Resistance Build Up
Most major organic and natural pesticide products do not build up a resistance by its target pests or molds. The mode of actions are not those of chemical products where after only a few generations the target pests are immune to said product. With smothering, neurotoxic killing, fungal spore and bacterial growth in insects and molds, resistance is much less of an issue than with traditional chemical agriculture.
Choosing the proper organic pesticides for your particular situation is vital to a clean and healthy crop. While making sure to follow all State mandated testing and labeling laws, it is no longer that hard to control pest populations with natural insecticides and fungicides. Here at Redbud Soil Company we specifically curate popular natural and organic pest control methods for the cannabis, hemp, and marijuana industry.