Putting Aside Pesticide with IPM

By Colleen Ferguson 

With cannabis culture evolving faster than ever in California and the country as a whole, Humboldt County pot producers continue to build on a worldwide reputation for growing the highest quality cannabis available anywhere. In a landscape where mass production funded by corporate interests looms large on the horizon, the future of Humboldt cannabis rests squarely on this reputation for quality.

True to this ethos, some Humboldt farmers are leading the way in developing and implementing practices that promote natural, sustainable farms with minimal environmental impact and produce safe, high-quality cannabis products. Fueled in part by readily available cannabis testing, awareness of the undesirable and often dangerous consequences of using toxic pesticides is driving innovation in Humboldt County, and these chemical crutches are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Innovation In the Field: Enter the exciting new world of Integrated Pest Management. IPM is a holistic agricultural approach that relies on biodiversity and natural cycles rather than chemical controls. IPM allows cultivators to design and implement procedures that promote balanced biological communities and produce happy, healthy cannabis plants.

IPM is highly effective in that it greatly reduces, and often completely eliminates, the need for chemical pest controls that can be expensive, labor-intensive and tend to promote resistant pest populations. Many industry observers see IPM as the future of sustainable pest management, and Humboldt County farmers are leading the way by providing not only the best, but also the safest, most environmentally friendly cannabis.

How IPM Works

Planning: IPM starts with detailed planning that takes many factors into account: geographical and environmental assessments, yield projections, acceptable practices, quality standards and much more. Detailed plans allow growers to become proactive rather than reactive when dealing with pests. This proactive approach is essential to using IPM successfully. In Humboldt, this type of structured plan has become more and more common, thanks in large part to heightened awareness of these techniques and the resultant pool of local expertise that has developed.

Humboldt County farmers interested in IPM now have a wealth of workshops, educational opportunites and consulting resources to choose from. Local cultivators and farm and garden stores are forging the future of high-quality cannabis together — all made with Humboldt heart, soul and sensibility.

Implementation and Monitoring: Implementation of IPM is a process that begins well before plants see the light of day and continues until winterizing is complete. This ongoing process 

is tweaked and fine-tuned for each site, and it becomes central to the daily, seasonal and annual workings of a farm. The most crucial aspect of successful implementation is monitoring. Monitoring plans must consider many factors, including knowledge of pests known to target cannabis, awareness of species that may have presented problems historically on a specific property or in the region, understanding of natural cycles, and labor constraints (since it’s not usually possible to turn over every leaf).

The result will be a highly structured schedule that accounts for a wide range of factors and conditions vital to the cultivation of fine cannabis. Diligence is the main ingredient in a successful monitoring effort, and the most diligent cultivators of cannabis have always grown the best products — just ask any experienced Humboldt County farmer.

Balanced Responses to Infestation: When the inevitable infestation occurs — and it is inevitable — practitioners of IPM can make use of several approaches to promote a more balanced biological community. The goal is to stunt the proliferation of detrimental species rather than seeking to eradicate them entirely. IPM is based on keeping environmental conditions in balance and allowing for acceptable levels of pests. Since nobody does balance better than Mother Nature, IPM practitioners look first to her for solutions and guidance — Mother Nature doesn’t seek to eradicate one species in favor of another, so the IPM practitioner follows her lead.

The farmer using IPM responds to infestations with a range of natural tools — from beneficial insects and bacteria to increasing greenhouse ventilation and amending watering and feeding schedules. These balanced responses to pest issues are customized to individual environments and infestations rather than relying on “one-size- fits-all” chemical eradication techniques, which typically leave little room for consideration of environmental soundness or the health implications of pesticide residues in finished products.

IPM techniques sometimes require a bit more time spent planning and monitoring, but the payoff comes in the form of the very finest cannabis — produced with the safety of the consumer and the integrity of the environment as top priorities, and worthy of carrying the seal of legendary Humboldt quality.