Sunday, March 20, 2022

Spring Equinox is Here!

Soil temp in the organic sunny hemp bed is 68F/20C.  Needs to warm up a bit. #hemp #floridahemp #freshfromflorida #organic #cannabis

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Earwigs (Dermaptera) and Florida Organic Hemp Cultivation

Are earwigs friend or foe in the hemp cultivation area?
Florida Organic Hemp Pest Management, Earwigs belong to the insect order Dermaptera

The answer may be both!  Earwigs can be a friend but also a foe to the organic hemp farmer and crop.

Florida Organic Hemp Pest Management, Earwigs have 'pinchers' also called 'cerci' attached to the rear of their abdomen
Earwigs are omnivores, and they are usually hungry.  From my observations across Arendell Hill Nursery, earwigs prefer aphids and other small insects.

However earwigs will also eat young, tender plant shoots, buds and leaves if there are not enough aphids, mites, insect eggs or small prey to satisfy their voracious appetites.

There are a number of earwig species and importantly, many are primarily carnivores.  The earwig preference for pest insects can be beneficial to the hemp farmer and as long as there are adequate numbers of small insects for forage. 

The key to integrating Dermaptera successfully into an organic hemp integrated pest management program lies in developing an understanding of earwig life cycle requirements.  The hemp farmer should know what environmental conditions favor earwig population growth. 

Once the hemp farmer recognizes favorable earwig growth conditions, the grower can adjust many of those factors to maintain earwig population stability, effectively avoiding population explosions while ensuring an adequate number of earwigs exist to help manage aphid issues.

Interestingly, the insect's common name 'earwig' is rumored to have been derived from a fear this bug could crawl into a sleeping person's ear at night resulting in all sorts of painful pinching.  This rumor is unfounded though and earwigs generally do not bite or pinch humans.

So are earwigs desirable as an integrated pest control partner for hemp cultivation?  I'd have to say a definitive yes.  

As with all partnerships, successful relationships require active management of interactions and the same holds true with earwigs.  An overpopulation of earwigs with not enough aphids for food will result in hemp plant bud and new growth damage as the earwigs seek out alternative food sources.

Earwig population numbers can be managed with straight forward mechanical and environmental pest control measures such as moisture control, good housekeeping and sanitary practices and regular surveillance.

The key is to have just enough earwig pest control partners.

Smart hemp cultivation site pest management can employ earwigs to hunt down and eat pesky aphids and mites.  

Employing native insects and native plants as partners in organic farming can be the safest, most effective and sustainable growing approach for Florida hemp and most all organically farmed crops.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Organic Hemp Cultivation Pest Plant Alert, Lamium amplexicaule aka Henbit

 Henbit, Lamium amplexicaule, is a purple flowered non-native groundcover with an aggressive growing habit renown for taking away native plants growing space.

Lamium amplexicaule, Henbit and Organic Hemp Cultivation

Once established, henbit is difficult to eradicate.

There are two main species of Lamium in Florida, henbit and purple deadnettle, L. purpureum.  Purple deadnettle differs from henbit visually with purple hued leaved near the plant top, or apex.  Henbit also can be usually recognized by the way it's leaves directly clasp the stem.

Although diminutive, lacy in appearance and a rather pretty groundcover, henbit might be thought of as harmless yet the opposite is true.  It is estimated by many ecological experts that almost half of all native plant species are in population decline due to loss of habitat as a result of competition from non-native species.

Lamium competes with native groundcovers for water, growing space, nutrients and importantly can be a host for hemp or other crop damaging pest insects, including a number of nematode species such as Ditylenchus spp., Heterodera spp., and Meloidogyne spp. along with a number of viruses (including Arabis mosaic virus) and fungal pathogens.

Controlling Lamium spp. in rowcrop cultivation settings can be difficult.  This weedy plant is often thought of as an annual species however it may often behave as a biennial in Florida climates.

I prefer to help establish lyre-leaf sage, Salvia lyrata or turkey tangled frog fruit, Phyla nodiflora along with a host of much better suited native groundcovers that support beneficial predatory insects, beneficial pollinators and positive biological pest management.

Personally, if I see henbit growing in the hemp cultivation areas the plant quickly becomes a candidate for pulling and mechanical eradication/composting.  Better safe than sorry when growing hemp.