I know what some of you are thinking… “why would you even tap into such a controversial topic as this?”
I’ll tell you why. Too often, I feel like we as farmers avoid the hard conversations. It’s easy to talk about our sustainability practices, planting cover crops, reducing tillage, all the things… but it’s not quite so easy to talk about the things we do that aren’t marketed well to consumers. And heck, we might as well get this out of the way early in the season… shall we?
Pesticides have a bad rap, but it’s mostly because of all the misconceptions surrounding their use. First, let’s define what a pesticide is. A pest is anything unwanted in a field that limits yield (weeds, insects and diseases):
- Herbicide- targets unwanted WEEDS in a field
- Fungicide- protects the plant from DISEASES
- Insecticide- protects the plant from INSECTS
Yes, we use pesticides, but it’s more intricate than that. We use a wide range of techniques to control weeds, insects, and diseases in our fields that have helped reduce pesticide use overall through the years.
For weed control, we use herbicides that are targeted to specific weed groups. We’re able to practice reduced tillage largely because of advanced herbicide technology, along with genetically modified traits. Reduce till/no-till helps increase organic matter, decrease erosion, and helps decrease our carbon footprint.
For insects, genetically modified crops with built in insect resistance have greatly reduced the need for insecticides. We also rotate our crops, which helps control insects that prosper in a certain environment.
For diseases we treat our seed before it goes in the ground to protect it from early season pressures we commonly have. Anything that we apply in-season is only on an as needed basis as diseases hit yield limiting thresholds.
We don’t douse our crops in chemicals, most of the product in the spray tank is water to dilute the products we’re using. We don’t get paid to over-apply, we only use what we absolutely need. We follow strict use rates and application windows on any product we use. In order to handle or apply pesticides, we have to go through a training and become a licensed pesticide applicator before we’re even allowed to handle any chemicals.
Pests are unavoidable, and utilizing pesticides is part of responsible and efficient management of the land and water resources for both conventional and organic farmers. If we were to allow our crops to be damaged by weeds, insects, and diseases each year by stopping pesticide use, there would be more harmful implications not only to our food supply, but also food safety.
I hope this helped you understand, but know this post is a surface-level overview of a very complex topic. I appreciate you all being here for it and taking the time to read! I’m thinking about starting to blog more in-depth on topics like these. If you would be interested in reading, let me know in the comments!