There is nothing satisfying like the taste of a fruit straight from the garden. To add to that satisfaction knowing that the fruit is organically grown or is free from pesticides. The commercial fruit farmers in Kenya are more worried of the earnings they would get. This article recommends pest and disease control through the use of good practice, resistant varieties and low toxicity environmentally friendly products.
Pest and Disease Control in Fruit
The organic gardening philosophy is to let nature take its course, for all organisms to live in balance and therefore accept a level of pest and disease damage.
However most gardeners want to harvest good crops relatively free of pests and diseases, grown in a safe and environmentally sustainable manner.
This article guides the home farmer to methods of pest and disease control that best suits their needs, taking into account –
- Good yields, relatively free of pests and diseases.
- Using best farm practices to minimize pests and diseases.
- Using only safe environmentally friendly products.
- Using products that are commonly available in home garden size packs and are legally registered for the purpose stated.
Reducing Pest & Diseases
Using good basic farming practices to minimize pests and diseases is common to all farmers, whether conventional or organic. In simple terms—providing the best growing conditions to ensure a strong healthy crop.
The following are the simple basics –
- In heavy soils, raise the planting area above the surrounding soil to ensure good drainage.
- Add lots of compost and work into the soil.
- Mulching with compost, grass clippings (free from any spray residue), or straw holds in moisture and improves soil structure.
- Provide adequate balanced feeding—sheep manure pellets or a fruit tree fertiliser.
- Provide good deep watering in dry periods.
- Practice good farm hygiene by removing all diseased leaves and plants.
Using pests and Diseases Resistant Varieties
While a few traditional varieties may be disease resistance, there are a range of modern varieties that are better. For example, the new grafted hass avocados and grafted tree tomatoes are resistant to many diseases. Using disease resistant varieties will ensure better crops and greatly minimize the need to use fungicides. We can assist you know the best varieties that are best suited to your area and resistant to disease.
Using Biological Controls
Biological control involves using another living organism to attack the bad one. This is becoming common with commercial growers, but these organisms are not available to home farmers.
What can be done however is to endeavor to use only pesticides that are soft on desirable insects such as bees, ladybirds and predator mites.
If good farming practices are followed and disease resistant varieties used, the use of pesticides can be minimized.
There is a range of very low toxicity, environmentally friendly pesticides available to home gardeners. Also, be aware that some pesticides are toxic—both chemical and natural organic. Being natural organic doesn’t necessarily make it safe.
Prevention is better than cure. Once you have gained experience and are aware of what pests and/or diseases attack which crops, you will be able to anticipate and spray at the first sign, which is more effective and minimizes pesticide use.
NB: Follow recommended spray programmes for each type of fruit, especially the early season preventative sprays
Always read the label
- The label is a legal document for registered pesticides.
- Take normal precautions when handling concentrates during mixing.
- Wash hands thoroughly after using.
- Store out of reach of children.
Which Pesticides should I use?
Fruits are susceptible to attack from a greater range of pests and diseases than vegetables.
There are also a number of complicating issues –
- Different pests and diseases attack different fruits.
- Most pesticides are only approved for use on some fruits.
- There is also significant variation in the effectiveness of pesticides.
- Withholding periods also vary between pesticides and between different fruits.
There are generally three choices for which type of pesticide you can use — ‘organic’, ‘environmentally friendly’ or other pesticides approved for use.
Pesticides vary greatly in effectiveness. While organic pesticides are usually safer (but not always) they are generally less effective.
Synthetic pesticides approved for home farming use are very low in toxicity compared to commercially available pesticides. So much so, that they are often less toxic and more environmentally friendly than an organic equivalent.
Agriculture and Food Authority has set withholding periods for each pesticide, and particular crop. The withholding period is the period that must elapse between spraying and harvesting, and is on the label of each product. Most pesticides have withholding periods of 3 to 14 days. Always check the label.