The Best Non-Pesticide Cannabis Pest Solutions

by | Oct 13, 2021

Detroiter Karhlyle Fletcher is the host of High Lit, a cannabis research and classic literature podcast featuring leading voices and independent music. In addition to years in written and video cannabis journalism, he is also a traditional author.

Pests and farming go hand in hand – you can’t grow a crop of anything without a few headaches. Unfortunately, over generations, many of our farmers have chosen to rely on pesticides and other environmentally harmful substances to manage their crops. That’s not our only option, though.

Work Within Nature for Better Pest Control

Bioengineering feels in between industrialization and magic. Yet science is at a place today where BioPhero offers yeast-derived pheromones capable of disrupting insects’ mating patterns. The process of using insect pheromones to reduce mating effectiveness is a familiar idea in agriculture. However, BioPhero’s method allows them to offer products in the same price range as insecticides. 

Why shouldn’t we rely on insecticides? Well, there are many issues we’re all familiar with, from runoff to the decimation of native bee populations. Using pheromones instead of insecticides reduces all of these issues, but the mechanism is also superior. When you attempt to kill off bug populations with chemicals, many develop resistance to said substances. Thus, an arms race necessarily follows. This process is very similar to the creation of superbugs via over prescription of antibiotics.

Mating disruption does nothing of the sort, instead of relying on trickery rather than extermination. The way that insects breed is that the females release pheromones which the males trace back to them. Then, once together, they mate. However, by spraying a field with female insect pheromones, this entire process can be disrupted by reducing the ability of the insects to find one another. 

Each species requires specific pheromones, from the Rice Stem Borers to the Cotton Bollworm, but the mechanism remains the same. Spray and make the insects lose their way, so their population drops due to failure to mate adequately.

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Sterilization Can Also Reduce Numbers

Separately from spraying pheromones to disrupt the pattern, another option is to release large numbers of sterilized males. Doing so means that the infertile males will mate with the available females, thus outcompeting at least a portion of the viable males. At the end of this process, much of the pest population dies out before having a successful mating cycle. So the population thins. 

While similar to using female pheromones to trick males, this process is more demanding. Instead of buying pheromones in bulk, one would need to source large quantities of sterilized males of specific insect populations. The theory and the technology are valid but likely more applicable to cull mosquito populations than manage cannabis farms at the moment. 

IPM and Working with Insects

A charming idea, tending towards holistic attitudes, is IPM, or integrated pest management. This philosophy can contain any combination of various methods, from disrupting mating to crop rotation or introducing different insects to change the balance of the economy. For example, farmers could manage their fields to attract desired insects by planting foods that those insects like to eat along with their crops. Additionally, they could alter their soil content to mimic the desired habitat of certain insects. 

After managing their farm in such a way, they could engage in IPM by working with Parabug Solutions. Their company offers the release of beneficial insects by drone, perhaps the only way to do so in a truly efficient manner on larger farms. Human labor for the same task is simply too expensive for most operations, especially if the process has to be done more than once. Parabug offers a solution that can provide a 50% reduction in application costs through using their system. 

Additionally, if the farm were prepared so that the insects thrived in the environment, it would be less likely that their population would collapse or leave. Thus, through IPM, farmers could save money by nurturing their insects rather than reintroducing insect populations continuously, reinforcing their numbers rather than replacing them. 

There’s No Reason to Skimp

Profits aren’t profits if we’re all dead. Insecticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals used on mono-crop farms have ravaged the American landscape for decades and caused many deaths. While the farmers using them might have seen some profits, their runoff has created ecological disasters in many of our natural water resources.

If we’re making money from cannabis and hemp, then we must use the planet. There are several alternative options, from using beneficial insects to disrupting mating and even simply balancing the nutrients in your soil correctly, that might save your harvest. Before we turn to more extreme options, it’s paramount to see what we can achieve through holistic means.

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