Why We Don't Need to Use Pesticides

It's not that we live on an insect-free farm! Instead, our goal is to grow really healthy plants that bugs won't be attracted to. It's a win-win situation, because healthy crops also mean food that is more nourishing for us and our livestock.

Organic food production is good, but the regenerative, biological growing practices we use take it a couple steps further. Most people assume that organic produce is not sprayed with pesticides. That's a myth, because there are a variety of pesticides approved for organic use. We've chosen to not use any of them for a few reasons... but the biggest reason is that there's simply a better way.

HEALTHY PLANTS ARE RESISTANT TO INSECTS (AND DISEASES)

Say what?!

This is a whole different approach to farming. Instead of "managing" pests with pesticides (whether organically-approved versions or otherwise), we operate on the premise that a healthy plant, with a functional immune system, will resist bugs. We've observed this countless times: when plants are unhealthy / lacking certain nutrients / stressed, THEN they will end up with pest issues.

Therefore, we aim to supply them with balanced nutrition, including micronutrients. The fascinating result is that the plants are not bothered by bugs. Period.

The critical piece to making this work is that it's actually the multitude of micro-organisms (bacteria, fungi, etc) that make nutrients available to the plants. So, the first step is to promote the populations of micro-organisms, and the rest falls into place. Truly healthy plants indicate that they're receiving balanced nutrition and are supported by an active microbial community.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOUR HEALTH

As stated by William Albrecht, a soil scientist in the 1950's

"Insects are nature's garbage collectors, and diseases are her cleanup crew"

In other words, pests will attack the weaker, malnourished plants - and we don't want to eat food that is nutritionally sub-par anyways. If we use a pesticide to deal with the pests, the nutritional imbalances remain in the plant. In that case, we'd have food that is nutritionally-poor AND sprayed with a pesticide - double whammy. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to us to really focus on growing healthy crops so that:

  1. we end up with truly healthy, nutrient-rich food
  2. we don't have to deal reactively with pest problems

THE PROOF IS IN THE FIELD

Part of our nutrition strategy for our crops involves spraying nutrient solutions on the leaves of the plant. They take up the nutrients readily, and results can often be seen very quickly.

The first time I ever proved that increasing the nutrients available to plants could fend off pests was several years ago. The potatoes became infested with potato bugs, and I applied my new-found knowledge of nutrient sprays. The infestation was so bad (many thousands of potato bugs) that I wasn't optimistic about what the results would be - but it was worth a try!

Within 2 days, I couldn't even find a dozen potato bugs in the whole patch. They simply went elsewhere. There was absolutely nothing toxic in what I had sprayed. More than that, the plants re-grew new leaves where the potato bugs had been munching, and went on to produce a very good crop of potatoes! I was totally impressed at the power of nutrition, and that first experience made me dive even deeper into these topics.

Now, instead of using nutrient sprays when a problem is detected, we use nutrition to try to maximize the health of the plant from the start. The results are even better.

This is what makes biological, regenerative farming so much fun! I've been applying these principles for several years, and have recently started using nutritional products for the crops from Advancing Eco Agriculture. There are now some Youtube videos explaining these concepts. Check out this video on the concept of insects being nature's garbage collectors for more information.