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Manure Odor/Fly Management: Engaging the Farm’s Ecological Advantage

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Jeff Henry demonstrates official application form of soft rock phosphate.

by James C. Silverthorne

Now is the right time to modify fly prevention programs with this natural linkage in mind: Manure odors and fly populations are at their highest levels during summer’s warmth. During summer in livestock shelter areas, with even small accumulations of fresh and decaying manure, the odor-fly relationship is causative as manure and urine odors attract some types of flies. Two corollaries to this dynamic include: Fresh air, free of manure odors/volatiles, does not attract flies, and manure not producing odor does not attract flies. Can an ideal manure management/fly prevention program for livestock shelter areas exist in farm practice? The ideal program results in a livestock shelter area (barn, stables, loafing shed) so free of flies, full of fresh air and chemically safe that one could comfortably picnic there with family and friends. Our image of ideal success— the livestock shelter as picnic zone — guides us to its establishment in the real world. What are the most effective foundational materials and methods for the ideal manure odor-fly prevention program, our “castle-in-air” picnic zone?

REAL FOUNDATIONS
They are: (1) a cluster of standard low-risk fly-prevention tools to decrease an existing fly population. Several weak items working together can support each other’s actions; (2) an emphasis on decreasing fly attractant levels typical in livestock areas (the volatiles produced by manure, urine, decaying bedding material and spoiled hay/feeds), thereby preventing fly population increase and usually ensuring its decrease. Decreased concentration levels of fly attractant volatiles also make the program easier to accomplish by decreasing the need for the prevention items in (1). Further, with consistently very low levels of manure’s attractant volatiles, area fly traps’ attractant baits become relatively more effective.

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Breeding Wildness Back for Resilience

Cherry tomatoesWild tomatoes are better able to protect themselves against the destructive whitefly than our modern, commercial varieties, according to a study published in the academic journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development. Researchers show that in our quest for larger, redder, longer-lasting tomatoes we have inadvertently bred out key characteristics that help the plant defend itself against predators. Led by Newcastle University, UK, the research shows that wild tomatoes have a dual line of defense against attack; an initial mechanism which discourages the whitefly from settling on the plant and a second line of defense which happens inside the plant where a chemical reaction causes the plant sap to “gum up” blocking the whitefly’s feeding tube. Thomas McDaniel, who led the research, says the findings highlight the natural resistance of wild plant varieties and suggests we need to “breed some of that wildness back in” instead of continuously looking for new methods of pest control.

This article appears in the April 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Snap! Build a Weasel Trap to Protect Your Poultry

It’s another idyllic evening on your patch of rural heaven. Tired from a long day, you drop off to the Land of Nod, but all is not peaceful in the kingdom this night. A feathered commotion shatters your slumber. What could it be? Grabbing the flashlight, and perhaps your trusty scattergun, you plunge into the inky darkness to defend your livestock. Needless to say, mayhem ensues and your light reveals your worst fears. A weasel has been on a murderous rampage. What do you do when nature invades the coop? Bite back!

Few wild creatures have the reputation for barnyard mayhem that the tiny weasel does. A member of the mustelid family, it shares the same bloodlust as its cousins the mink and wolverine. Tipping the scales at just a few ounces and barely a foot long, this tiny hunter is well-equipped for relentless pursuit of a meal. Slim and slinky, it is astounding the cracks they can crawl through to get at a rabbit hutch. Poultry fencing is no barrier either, and they can find a way into any building.

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Interview: Scientist, Author Jonathan Lundgren Discusses Ground-Breaking Research into Insects and Species Diversity

Acres U.S.A. is North America’s monthly magazine of ecological agriculture. Each month we conduct an in-depth interview with a thought leader. The following interview appeared in our Febjonathan-lundgrenruary 2016 issue and was too important not to share widely.

Dr. Jonathan Lundgren is an agroecologist, director of the Ecdysis Foundation and CEO of Blue Dasher Farm in Brookings, South Dakota. He received his Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Illinois in 2004 and was a top scientist with USDA-ARS for 11 years. Lundgren received the Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering awarded by the White House and has served as an advisor for national grant panels and regulatory agencies on pesticide and GM crop risk assessments. Lundgren has written 107 peer-reviewed journal articles, authored the book Relationships of Natural Enemies and Non-prey Foods and has received more than $3.4 million in grants. Dr. Lundgren has trained five post-docs and 12 graduate students from around the world. One of his priorities is to make science applicable to end-users, and he regularly interacts with the public and farmers regarding pest and farm management and insect biology. Lundgren’s research program focuses on assessing the ecological risk of pest management strategies and developing long-term solutions for sustainable food systems. His ecological research focuses heavily on conserving healthy biological communities within agroecosystems by reducing disturbance and increasing biodiversity within cropland.

Interviewed by Tracy Frisch

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Kaolin as Natural Insecticide for Beans

white_fliesIn Colombia, bean crops contribute significantly to the region’s agriculture. New research on the use of kaolin (aluminosilicate clay) contains information that can help bean producers limit the use of conventional pesticides. The authors of the study in HortScience said previous experiments in temperate regions have shown that kaolin foliar sprays have insecticidal attributes. The researchers studied the greenhouse whitefly Trialeurodes vaporariorum, one of the most prevalent pests in the region’s bean crops. The study design consisted of three experiments using four treatments: no insecticide, synthetic chemical insecticides, foliar applications of kaolin at 2.5 percent and foliar applications of kaolin at 5 percent (weight/volume). Foliar applications of kaolin at both doses controlled 80 percent of the population of whitefly in different stages (eggs, nymphs and adults) in all three  experiments. Analyses showed that the percentage of efficacy of the two doses of kaolin was similar to that obtained in bean plants treated with synthetic chemical insecticides (90 percent).

This article appears in the March 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.

More Sustainable Strawberry Production

Plasticulture

Strawberry field

A team of researchers from North Carolina State University set out to provide strawberry growers with information that could help them transition to more sustainable soil and pest management production practices. Their study, published in HortTechnology, compares conventional, compost and organic strawberry production systems in the southeastern United States, and revealed good news for growers. All three systems resulted in positive net returns, and two showed “considerable reductions” in negative environmental and human health impacts.

According to the authors, the nonfumigated compost system and organic system resulted in reductions in negative environmental and human health impacts measured by a set of indicators. “For example, the total number of lethal doses (LD50) applied per acre from all chemicals used in each system and measuring acute human risk associated with each system declined from 118,000 doses per acre in the conventional system to 6,649 doses/acre in the compost system and to 0 doses per acre in the organic system,” the authors explained. “Chronic human health risk, groundwater pollution risk, and fertilizer use declined as well in the compost and organic systems as compared with the conventional system.”

This article appears in the December 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A.