“What can I put on my crop to kill the pests?” seems to be the question that comes up the most from growers. Whoa! Wait a minute! That may be the wrong question.
First, let’s ask why the pests are there eating the crops in the first place. “Because they’re hungry?” Well, yes, but why are they eating this particular crop right now? “Because they like it?” Yes, but why do they like it?
Let me share an analogy– A horse looks at a beautiful field of grass and wants to eat it. We look at the same field of grass and think what a beautiful field it is, but we don’t want to eat it. Similarly, realize that insects are not humans, and their ideal food is not our ideal food. Insects have a different digestive system than we do.
Quality food for humans has fully-formed molecules of proteins and carbohydrates. Insects have a hard time digesting these big molecules. They seek fragmented molecules which are easier to digest. Plants which are healthy are able to fully form their molecules. These fully-formed molecules work properly in the plant to do various jobs and keep the plant growing, reproducing, etc.
Now let’s say the plant did not get enough zinc (or some other mineral element) which is needed to activate an enzyme in the plant so that it can fully form needed molecules. The plant now contains fragmented molecules that can’t perform the tasks needed by the plant and the plant gets sick, though perhaps not noticeably at first. Insects are attracted to the plant because it contains fragmented molecules that they can digest.
Keep in mind that more nutrients are not always better. It’s achieving the right balance that counts. For example, applying too much material rich in nitrogen can cause aphids to be a problem.
If plants are healthy, they can also make compounds which discourage insects from eating them. But again, they must have the right balance of nutrients they need to do so.
Our soil needs a vast array of beneficial microbes which make nutrients available to the plants and crowd out detrimental microbes. Microbes need nutrients for their own health, then when they die, the plants uptake the decomposed materials.
Also, having optimal amounts of nutrients in your plants, especially silicon, strengthens cell walls, physically making it more difficult for insects to feed on your plants.
Think about this gem which was shared with me by Dr. William Jackson– “Insects are nature’s way of taking out plants that are not worthy of reproduction.” This is how plants evolve over time to become stronger instead of dying out as a species.
So take good care of your soil and plants, and let the harmful insects fly on by to eat some unhealthy weeds down the road.