Plant & Food Research’s Vaughn Bell has seen a lot of mealybugs in his time, but even he was stunned to see photos of infestations in Marlborough this past vintage.
Dr Jonathan Lundgren, founder of Ecdysis Foundation and Blue Dasher Farm, visited New Zealand for an international workshop on conservation biological control of invertebrate pests, hosted by the Bio-Protection Research Centre at Lincoln University.
He told workshop participants that healthy ecosystems do not have the pest problems that are present in ‘monoculture’ agriculture.
“If you have a pest problem in your field, that’s your field telling you that something is out of whack. If all you are doing is reacting to a pest problem, then you are never going to get ahead; you’ve got to solve the underlying problem, not just the symptoms.”
The underlying problem is lack of biodiversity, Lundgren said. “The way we approach our food production is much too simplified.”
Instead, he said, regenerative agriculture solves pest problems and is more profitable.
Regenerative agriculture goes beyond sustainable agriculture by trying to regenerate degraded land and ecosystems rather than simply sustaining what is left. Farmers who follow regenerative methods use few if any pesticides, don’t till the land, practise crop and stock rotation that mimic natural processes, and encourage biodiversity.
Lundgren said one study found more diverse and more populous insect communities in cow dung from regenerative farms, including more predators of pest species (mostly flies).