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Pesticides in the Garden

Gardens do not exist in a bubble, which means some of the pesticides sprayed onto the land end up contaminating neighbouring gardens, fields, soil, water and air.

Even in the case of systemic pesticides, which are taken up into the plant as a whole via pesticide-treated seeds, about 95 percent of the substances end up not in the plant cells where it was intended but blown off as dust or permeating the soil and water.

The ultimate solution is not to fight against nature with the use of harmful chemicals, but rather to work with it, and even learn from it, embracing the natural tools already in existence to keep pests in check, namely wildflowers.

Wild flowers

Wildflowers are home to many beneficial insects, including lacewings, ladybirds, hover flies and parasitic wasps, the latter two of which are natural predators to common crop pests like cereal leaf beetles and aphids

The new in-field stripes, however, make it easier for the beneficial insects to move about the fields and reach all the way to the centre. Wildflower stripes also go beyond another method of natural pest control known as beetle banks, in which raised strips are planted tussock and other grasses to attract ground beetles.

In-field wildflower strips move beyond beetle banks in a number of important ways. Perhaps the most important is that their focus is on supporting diverse communities of predatory and parasitic insects that kill pests. Research increasingly suggests that complex communities of predators and parasitoids are the most effective at controlling pests.

One study involved eighteen years of UK wild bee distribution data for sixty-two species, which were compared to amounts of neonicotinoid use in oilseed rape, a crop grown to produce canola oil. The researchers found evidence of increased wild bee population extinction rates in response to systemic pesticide (neonicotinoid) seed treatment.

Throughout spring and summer, mixtures of neonicotinoids are found in the pollen and nectar of wildflowers growing in arable field margins, at concentrations that are sometimes even higher than those found in the crop.

This means that plans to add wildflowers to conventional crop fields could potentially backfire and end up exposing pollinators to increased levels of pesticides unless efforts are made to slash pesticide usage at the same time.

Swap out toxic pesticide and lawn chemicals for organic weed and pest control alternatives or, better still, get rid of your lawn altogether and plant a wildflower meadow or edible organic garden.