Focus on Scouting and Plant Diversity to Build ‘Army’ of Beneficial Insects

A no-tilled field with cover crops offers abundant habitat for insects. Encouraging the good critters while deterring the bad through rotations will help keep them in balance.

Adopting no-till and cover crops has a wide range of potential soil benefits, including reduced erosion, improved water holding capacity and a greater ability carbon below ground.

But with the combination of undisturbed soils and higher levels of plant matter —whether living or decaying — comes the potential for greater insect populations because these conditions encourage insect activity. The good news is that a no-till, cover crop system can be just as good for encouraging beneficial insects as it is being a host for pests and growers can use that to their advantage by following some guidelines, says Douglas Jones, an entomologist at Bayer.

Scouting is Essential

The key to managing insect populations and discerning the presence of good or bad activity is having boots on the ground.

“There are some cover crops that can actually intensify the pest pressure on the following crop. And there are others that promote beneficial insects, which can reduce populations of pest problems,” says Jones.

“But there are no one-size-fits-all solutions and you can’t tell what’s going on in your field from the coffee shop. You have to actually go out and look and then you can make informed decisions…

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Julia Gerlach

Julia Gerlach is managing editor of No-Till Farmer. She has a lengthy background in publishing and a longtime interest in gardening and mycology. She graduated with a B.A. in music and philosophy from Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wis.

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