Pest Management in FoodMachine aquaponics

Published: 20 November 2012

Unfortunately, when growing plants, the need for having a plan to manage pests is a reality. Following are a few of the basic steps taken in FoodMachine systems to prevent pests as well as deal with issues should they arise.

The most effective way to prevent issues with pests in the first place is to have healthy plants. Pests are more likely to be a problem with plants that are, for whatever reason, not as healthy as possible. Plants become stressed, and therefore unhealthy, for a variety of reasons. This can be because of nutrient levels in the system that are too low, too much direct sun and heat, or a lack of adequate light. Each of these weaken the plants and make them more susceptible to pests. If the correct ratio of fish and plants is maintained, in addition to appropriate sun exposure, the plants should remain healthy and pest free.

In addition to making sure that the plants are healthy, we make use of two different sprays. The first is neem oil, the second is Bacillus thuringiensis (BT). Each of these are on the OMRI list of products that are approved for use in USDA certified organic environments. We recommend alternating these two sprays as they help control many of the most common pests. Of course, toxic chemicals can’t be used in the FoodMachine as anything toxic will kill the fish. Therefore, it is important that no other chemicals are used in the system.

Finally, during training we emphasize that the people running the system must be students of both the plants and fish. This means that on a daily basis basic observations must be made of the plants to see if any pests are present. If this is done on a regular basis, any issues generally can be taken care of before a system-wide outbreak has time to occur. As seen in pictures below, the pests leave behind signs which can help with easy identification of issues.

This is a plant that has obviously had a worm of some type eating it. Leaves don’t grow with holes in them!

Many worms hide on the underside of leaves. Again, careful observation is necessary!

Many pests will leave behind evidence in the form of “droppings.” If something looks unusual, investigate!