Reporter’s Notebook: Why hemp producers should use biocontrols to promote sustainable production

(This is an abridged version of a column that appears in the March issue of Marijuana Business Magazine.)

Cannabis is often touted as a self-sustaining crop that doesn’t need pest protection. Yet in 2019, outdoor hemp farmers saw heavy disease and pest pressure.

As planting season approaches for outdoor hemp and marijuana, cultivators need viable solutions for pest control. That’s where biological controls (biocontrols) come in—more specifically, beneficial insects and biological control agents (BCAs), the “good bugs” that provide an ongoing line of defense against “bad bugs” and diseases.

Many cannabis producers already use biocontrols in indoor grows. But with marijuana and especially hemp crops growing outdoors—often near row crops farmed with conventional chemical inputs—there is a broader need for research and education about the role of biocontrols in sustainable production.

Supply and Demand

During the 2010s, the agricultural use of beneficials and BCAs ramped up — especially among specialty crop producers—as entire chemical classes were taken out of production and more pesticides continue to be targeted.

Glyphosate (the herbicide commonly known as Roundup), for example, is increasingly avoided because of potential effects on human health, while neonicotinoids have been implicated in bee decline.

As consumers increasingly demand sustainably and organically produced crops, conventional farming is becoming less, well, conventional.

The same applies in cannabis, though for different reasons.

Read more about why hemp producers should use biocontrols here.

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