There are many ways that farmers can control pests. The best way is by promoting beneficial insects. For just about any pest there is some other insect that can control it. In order to promote beneficial insects you need to provide habit for them. Often times you can buy beneficial insects at a gardening store or insectaries. The links below provide more information on pest specific control.
Know your pest! Which insect is damaging which crop? There is no one answer to pest control. Once you have determined the target pest, you can research its life cycle. Usually, the larval stage is the most susceptible to control strategies. Insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, and a slew of bio-products are available, but knowing thy enemy is the first step as different treatments have different modes of action that may or may not be effective for the insect you are trying to control. In addition, there are “companion crops”–plant species planted in proximity to the desired crop that have properties known to repel known pests.
Both richardfisher and jacques are correct. Utilizing beneficial insects and good companion planting (both to repel pests and to attract them to different parts of your land, as I’ve successfully done – using lambsquarter – with leafminers in my garden) are the two best organic methods to deal with pests. Depending on the pest and on the severity, both could be used in tandem.
There are other methods, however. Some pests or their eggs can be picked from your plants by hand. Others can be stopped with simple, non-chemical traps (like beer traps for slugs).
And of course there is always prevention, which is not always possible, but when effective, can be the best way to deal with pests. Prevention of pests really means creating environments that are not inviting to them. Overwatering can be a major draw for pests that like wet environments, for example. Other pests – depending on the threat – may thrive in a garden that has no groundcover, and in this case plants should be planted more in the open. On the other hand, many pests become food for the other animals that can thrive when there’s a good groundcover near your main plants.
The point is that there are many options that can be utilized in different ways for each unique situation.
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