Netting provides non-chemical control of devastating berry pests

Photo Credit: Ryan Kuesel

Some invasive pests are nearly impossible to control, even with the most powerful chemicals, but netting is proving to be a promising solution for both conventional and organic agriculture. A recent study published in the journal Insects found that fine-mesh netting reduces damage to berry crops from multiple pests all at once, reducing the need for spray-based pest management. This study demonstrated a non-chemical strategy that can be adopted by both organic and conventional farmers to simultaneously control birds, June beetles, Japanese beetles and spotted-wing Drosophila (SWD). Chemical control, both certified organic and even stronger conventional sprays, have become nearly ineffective against these insect pests, which continue to develop resistance to the sprays. Birds can also be crop pests, and farmers often use coarse nets to exclude birds. The researchers comparing certified organic spray treatments to the use of fine-mesh netting found a significant reduction in damage from birds and beetles in berries with the netting treatment. Capture rates of SWD were also significantly lower in berries covered by netting. Given that all of these pests are becoming harder to control with pesticides, this study offers a promising option that also reduces the use of pesticide inputs in both conventional and organic farming.