A dangerous parasite and infection carrier mite sitting on a green leaf.

What is Cultural Control of Insects?

Agricultural man has always sought effective ways to rid crops of devastating insects. Prior to the 1950’s, some methods offered a modicum of success, but were broadly applied and not particularly selective. Thus, many pests developed tolerances such that heavier guns were called into use, specifically synthetic chemicals derived from industrial processes.

Initially very effective, these chemicals became quite popular and very heavily used. At first, it seemed they were the answer to all agricultural prayers, such that many gardeners and producers of horticultural products let their well-rounded pest control programs slip away. Even turfgrass fell victim to this one-dimensional strategy to eliminate bugs. Mainstream landscapers and homeowners almost forgot the value of cultural control of insects.

What is Cultural Control of Pests?

In a nutshell, cultural control means choosing the right plants for the area and providing all the support they need to grow strong and maintain health. In other words, you select sods, trees, bushes and flowers that would flourish in your region on their own. Then, cultivate this vegetation with proper soil conditioning, water, and fertilizer applications, neither giving too much or too little. By manipulating the environment of your grounds to give your landscaping every natural advantage to thrive, your lawn and trees should enjoy robust health, thereby remaining resistant and less attractive to invading insects.

Cultural control of insects falls into the broader category of integrated pest management (IPM).

How is Integrated Pest Management Practiced?

The idea is to raise vibrant flora with as few chemicals as possible.

IPM embraces cultural control and adds the use of beneficial insects, natural pesticides and herbicides. If push comes to shove, even a little chemical application could come into play but on a very limited basis.

De rigueur with organic growers, IPM employs targeted attacks for the particular infestation using the insects’ natural enemies. It usually starts with selecting cultivars bred to be pest-resistant. Then, integrated pest management might also deploy any combination of:

  • Predatory insects, the natural enemies of pests
  • Botanical oils and extracts
  • Insecticidal soap
  • Mineral insecticides
  • Microbial insecticides
  • Manual removal of pests

Often, natural pest control options require frequent re-application; however, continued development of effective, low- or non-toxic products promise longer lasting results. Some treatments require no more frequent use than their more poisonous chemical counterparts.

How Can I Benefit from Integrated Pest Management?

In all honesty, by committing to an integrated pest management regimen and cultural control, you may find yourself inspecting and managing your lawn and landscaping plants more frequently. But the sacrifice of time reaps big rewards.

Safe Grounds for Human Enjoyment

Residential lawns, athletic fields and parks managed with IPM will provide a safe ground cover for human and animal play. No need to prevent your little ones from entering the field after treating it for insects.

Restoration of the Environment for Future Generations

By taking the time to work with nature, not against it, you do much to clean up past mistakes. If everyone did the same, waterways could more rapidly become pristine again and the ground ready to give its yield with few or no toxins. Additionally, IPM avoids creating generations of Frankenbugs, increasingly indifferent to the tried-and-true pesticides of yesteryear. Properly administered, IPM allows pollinators to work in peace.

Finally, you can usually eat your garden produce right off the vine without hesitation or running to the faucet first.

Cultural control of pests will set up your turf for lasting health. It’s never too late to trade your old toxic chemicals for natural pest control. Do the smart thing and learn more about IPM. Please visit the University of Florida’s IFAS website. They offer many in-depth articles and resources on IPM and cultural pest control for lawns and gardens.