Growers to discuss benefits, costs of methods
By DAVE WILKINS
Plant pests, beneficial insects and native pollinators will be discussed during an agricultural biodiversity tour June 23 in south-central Idaho.
Participants will tour two farms in the region: Ernie's Organics near Shoshone and Stevenson Ranch near Bellevue.
Owners of the two farms will discuss their conservation practices as they relate to biodiversity. Additional presentations will focus on native pollinators and biological pest suppression by predators, parasites and pathogens.
Fred Brossy of Ernie's Organics said he hasn't done anything special to enhance biodiversity on his farm.
"If I have biodiversity on my farm, it's by default," he said.
The Little Wood River winds its way through the fields of alfalfa, wheat, beans, pasture and potatoes. The lush riparian area attracts all kinds of birds, deer, elk and other wildlife.
"It's like a magnet for wildlife and hopefully, beneficial insects," Brossy said.
Undesirable critters also show up, like the voles that devoured whole patches of Brossy's hay and grain fields last year.
The rodents eventually fell victim to snakes and hawks, but not before doing considerable damage.
Brossy said hay production is the cornerstone of his conservation and crop rotation program. It helps build fertility, control perennial weeds and rest his ground from annual tillage.
"It's the key to the whole thing," he said. "All of those things are important to rebuilding the soil and reducing fossil fuel inputs."
This will be the third annual biodiversity tour organized by the Western Region Functional Agro-Biodiversity Work Group. Previous tours visited Washington's Columbia Basin and Oregon's Willamette Valley.
The group of university scientists, industry representatives, nonprofit personnel and farmers gathers each year for a tour in lieu of an annual conference.
"We decided we wanted to get out in the field to highlight just how important this biodiversity is in agricultural production," said Gwendolyn Ellen, manager of the Farmscaping for Beneficials Project at Oregon State University. "It's been very successful."
Farms and ranches can enhance their biodiversity by preserving natural habitat or providing buffers at the edge of fields or pivot corners, she said.
The buffers can provide important habitat for native pollinators, parasitic insects and other wildlife.
"If you have a complexity of plants, a complexity of organisms on your farm, you are going to have more biological pest management," Ellen said.
Native pollinators, which include species such as the hummingbird moth and soldier beetle, are becoming more important with the shortage of European honeybees, she said.
For more information about the tour or to register, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call Gwendolyn Ellen at 541-737-6272.