Natural Insect and Disease Prevention

February 20, 2023

Pests and diseases are important in the ecosystem. Like William Albrecht comments, insects are nature’s garbage collectors and diseases are her cleanup crew. They are here to take the unhealthy plants out of the ecosystem and recycle them.

Essentially, though, what we are really saying is that healthy plants resist pests and disease. This is exciting because it means that we are not bound to spraying insecticides, bactericides, fungicides, etc. Instead, we can choose to work with nature: improving biology through cover crops, proper tillage practices (or no-till), foliar applications targeting photosynthesis, proper soil mineral balancing, and proper uses of mulches and manure. And when we do this, our plants will become healthier, higher brix, and more resistance to pests and disease. We know this to be the case from personal experiences.

Where do we start? If I had to pick a mineral that possibly has the largest impact, I would pick calcium. Calcium is foundational for insect and disease resistance, and should be the starting point of consideration for all nutritional treatments because it impacts the soil and plants in so many ways.

In soil, having calcium levels at 68% is considered adequate, soils needing this to have good structure and adequate pore space. When we have good pore space, we have better soil biology, roots grow better, and then the plant picks up more nutrients. Remember, calcium is considered the trucker of all nutrients. In other words, when we have high calcium levels in plants, it is easier for the plant to pick up other nutrients.

Calcium is also the dominant growth mineral; we learn this from William Albrecht and Arden Anderson. However, in agriculture today, we use nitrogen as the dominant growth mineral, with disastrous effects. Plants have poor quality growth, lower quality sugars, more insect and disease pressure, and lower brix. Yes, nitrogen is beneficial and needed for growth, but not as THE most important, and perhaps in a better form. Even Justus von Liebig, the father of N-P-K agriculture, realized his gross mistake later on in his life and confessed that he has grossly sinned against nature, but it was too late to retract it in his time.

How does calcium affect disease and insect resistance in plants? Here’s how: when plants have adequate amounts of calcium, a protective layer is formed on the leaf surface so that when a pathogen (that we call disease spores) lands on the leaf surface, it cannot penetrate that layer. Why is this important? Because in order for this pathogen to cause disease, it has to enter into the inner parts of the plant. If it cannot do that, the spore lands on the leaf surface, but we never know it because no disease outbreak occurs.

Insect resistance works in a similar way, especially the group with simple digestive systems, such as an aphid. If an aphid starts trying to chew at a leaf, the protective layer may prevent it, and if it doesn’t, the calcium will get stuck in the gums of the aphid and it will die.

So the two main points for today are that it is possible to have healthy plants that are resistant to insects and diseases when we balance nutrition and support biology, and that calcium is a very important part of this mechanism. In our experience, calcium and amino acid foliar applications promote an increase in brix and a bump in plant sugars perhaps more effectively than anything else we have tried.

Having said that, there is so much more to learn. What roles do diverse cover crops and other herbs play? Hopefully we can explore this more as time goes on.

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Source: Melvin Fisher | Sponsored by Keystone Bio-Ag LLC