Pests

Wild Willow Farm is excited to welcome you to our self-guided tour! Follow the signs around the farm and  learn about each landmark along the way. Thank you to local Chula Vista High School students for helping to create content for each QR code! 

A pest is defined as an organism living and growing where they are not wanted and can cause damage to plants, humans, structures, and other creatures, including crops that are grown for food. Invasive animals prey on native wildlife and can displace other native animals, as well as contribute to soil erosion and water degradation, and loss of biodiversity. Pests and diseases cause a 30 to 40 percent loss in available crop production. As the human population grows so will the need for food supply. The dominant form of pest control is the use of chemical pesticides.  Evidence suggests that such approaches rarely yield satisfactory results. In recent decades the dependence on insecticides has led to insecticide resistance, pest resurgence, chronic health problems, and environmental pollution. This problem is severe in developing countries where pesticide use is poorly regulated.

 

Ecological approaches to pest control include a fundamental understanding of population biology at the local farm level and the integration of renewable technologies such as host plant resistance and natural biological control, which may be available to even the most resource-poor farmers.

 

Gophers can cause a great deal of damage to a farm or garden. Fortunately, there are a few natural ways to deal with this pest:

  • Prevention: Use wire netting for plants you want to protect. The University of California recommends complete underground screening (sides and bottoms) made out of hardware cloth or 3/4 inch poultry netting.  Gophers don't thrive on annual grains because the roots of these plants don't provide them with enough food. Farmers can manage gophers by planting annual grains as a rotation crop or a buffer strip to protect other crops that are preferred by gophers.1 You might want to try using a similar buffer around your garden if gophers are causing lots of damage. If you don't want to plant grains, you could try a buffer of bare ground. Occasionally gophers damage plastic sprinkler pipes or underground cables with their chewing. You can prevent this kind of problem by using a barrier of six inches of coarse gravel.

  • Trapping: "Trapping," according to Montana wildlife specialist James Knight, "is usually the best way to control pocket gophers in small areas."1 There are several types of gopher traps. You might want to get advice about which ones have worked well in your area. The most common ones are the Macabee trap, box traps, and the Cinch trap.

  • Flooding: If you flood a gopher burrow with your garden hose you can force the gopher to leave the tunnel, providing a good opportunity to kill the gopher. The University of California suggests using a shovel or a dog for this task

  • Barn Owls: Barn owls like eating gophers. One estimate is that a barn owl family could eat 1,000 gophers a year. If you live in an area where barn owls might thrive, you can encourage them by putting up nest boxes.

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