Plant protection is an agricultural practice involving the management of harsh factors such as weather, weeds, diseases, and pests from plants in general (fruits, crops, vegetables, garden plants, and all sorts of vegetation).
Proper plant protection is necessary to grow quality plants (for whatever purpose they may serve) and lessen wastage. This productivity positively affects your resources, as healthy plants use lesser plots of land, water, labor and resources.
Ultimately, aside from business interest, fortifying your plants' health translates to minimizing your carbon footprint here on earth. Here's how.
Since your plants are protected enough, a huge chunk of them would grow of quality. Therefore, you don't need to use a lot of land to compensate for your expected losses. The lesser junction of land used is synonymous to biodiversity preservation, less greenhouse gas emission, and more.
Additionally, you're contributing to your quality of living and the people around you by consuming and selling agricultural products in good health and quality. Because of the application of the safe practices of plant protection, farmers can offer a wide range of products for consumers.
That said, let's discuss some of the common plant protection practices and the essential related topics attached to it. To start, let's identify some of the common plant diseases that can be averted by protecting your plants in the first place.
What are the common diseases that can happen to a plant?
Plant diseases may be caused by abiotic, biotic factors or a combination of both. It can be challenging to diagnose, but the first step starts with being able to tell when a plant is showing signs of disease. When a plant develops a disease, it is usually because of a fungus, bacteria or virus.
There are other indirect factors that result in a plant's susceptibility to diseases such as poor plant management, inappropriate environmental conditions, or even the skill level of a grower.
Soil naturally contains microorganisms like fungi that are good for plants, but there are also thousands of fungi that are harmful. It is quite tricky to maintain balance in the soil ecosystem to keep plants mold-free. Nevertheless, you need to take certain steps to balance the amount of good and bad fungi to your medium.
When you start to notice mold on plant soil, usually appearing as small, white, powdery patches, that is a sign that the balance has been disturbed. Fungal disease on plants may also manifest as leaf rust, wilting, blotches and rotting tissue.
Mold on the soil is often caused by overwatering, poor drainage and poor air circulation, and if left unchecked, will lead to severe fungal disease. To prevent mold in plants, it is best to water at soil level only so that fungi do not have a chance to develop in water droplets trapped in foliage.
Fungal diseases may be controlled by removing the infected parts and applying a fungicide to prevent the germination of new fungal spores.
Just like fungi, bacteria are naturally present in soil and may be beneficial or harmful, depending on the type. Plant bacteria can spread in many ways – through insects, contaminated water, tools, and contact with other diseased plants.
Symptoms of bacterial infection in plants include the appearance of leaf spots, cankers, and soft rot. Abnormal growth in the plant may also point to bacterial infection since the rapid growth could be a plant's response to the unwanted invasion.
Bacterial growth may be controlled by using copper-based sprays, sanitation of equipment, and removal of plant debris.
Unlike fungi and bacteria, viruses are not spread by water or air. Instead, they are introduced to the plant by other hosts, most commonly, insects that feed on infected plants and transmit the viruses to healthy plants.
A diseased plant may appear yellowish or display mosaic patches of yellow, light green or white. As the disease progresses, the plant may begin to wilt or grow stunted and misshapen.
Once a plant contracts a virus, the plant's case is hopeless. There are no chemical treatments available to get rid of a virus. The most effective way to stop the spread is to simply remove the diseased plant.
The principle, "prevention is better than cure", most definitely applies to plants too because once infection sets in, it is quite difficult to control. Growers must be alert to any changes in growth and appearance of their soil and plants and must be vigilant in maintaining the delicate soil ecosystem.
How Can You Protect Your Plants from Common Plant Diseases?
Again, plant diseases are best managed when they are stopped before they even start. This is particularly true for diseases stemming from infectious and noninfectious diseases.
Here are some important ways to protect your plant from common plant diseases:
Understand the system of infections
Plant diseases can only take place when the following components are present at the same time:
- A vulnerable host plant
- A pathogen that can cause the disease
- An environment that accompanies the disease
For instance, if you let a susceptible plant grow in an area where an unhealthy amount of bad fungi thrives compounded by a soil that's too moist, the plant is likely to develop a significant type disease.
Just by removing one of these three points will significantly lower the disease's chance of emergence.
Another method is to isolate pathogens. Removing infected plants from your garden at a certain season can limit the number of pathogens responsible for causing infections for the next season.
The best way to prevent plant diseases involves the selection of genetic disease-resistant plants. No plant is completely disease-free, but some plants are less likely to develop major disease problems throughout their growing life. Take advantage of all available information on the plants' disease resistance that you might want to add to your garden.
Sanitation for disease control is still important today. Eliminating the pathogen that can cause a disease is a long-established approach to disease prevention.
A serious form of sanitation is called roguing: removing infected plants as soon as they become noticeable. Typically done with severe plant diseases such as orange rust or brambles, any plants indicating this rust disease, including wild brambles, should be removed immediately and destroyed before the fungus spreads to healthy plants.
Another way to prevent disease is by rotating crops. Many soilborne pathogens remain in the ground for a long time, to save susceptible plants from a pathogen, you might want to separate the two. When replanting, place the plants in a different location - where the soil may not be infested with the pathogen.
Sanitizing the tools with alcohol also is a way to prevent diseases from spreading to your plants. Sanitizing the tools in between pruning cuts dramatically decreases the chance of pathogens to spread.
Prevention is still better than a cure. Insects are parts of a healthy garden ecosystem. Bees and other pollinators guarantee a plentiful harvest, while other insects, such as praying mantises, help control the plant-damaging pests. Fruit worms, roaches, Japanese beetles, and such can quickly ruin your crops. Before all of that happens, consider using bug sprays, fungicides, and targeted insecticides.
Organic insecticides and bug sprays can be comparatively expensive, with less immediate effect and the need for reapplication for complete control. Chemical insecticides and bug sprays typically work much faster, last longer, and cost less per application. The timing of the application of repellants is critical to ensure effective control, as these products are very effective against immature insects.
How to Protect Outdoor/Indoor Plants from the Harsh Weather?
Planting requires effort, money, and so much love. If you do not want your precious plants to go to waste because of the harsh weather, don't fret! Here are some tips and tricks to prepare and protect your plants:
Know your plants
Research about it. Water, light, temperature, and nutrients are some factors that affect plant growth and development. However, different species of plants require a different kind of nurture and care.
Some plants grow best in places with cold temperatures, some in temperate climates. Knowing what type of plant you are taking care of is a great start in determining if a specific weather condition is harsh.
Learning more about the plants you are growing will help you decide on a vast number of decisions along the way. I bet you will love them even more in the process.
Determine the weather conditions where you are living and adjust accordingly
Wherever you live, extreme weather conditions are inevitable. We cannot control the weather, but we can regulate the temperature for our indoor plants.
If you are living in the United States, be on the lookout for a possible snowstorm. If you live in Southeast Asian countries, be on the lookout for heavy rains, drought, or heatwaves.
Prepare the necessary tools and equipment
You need to prepare the tools and equipment you can use to prevent your plants from being affected by a severe weather condition. For example, if you know that either heavy wind or frost are coming, you can turn-over the pots to serve as windbreakers or frost guard, respectively.
A good drainage system is a must, especially for those places that constantly experience heavy rains and flooding. Waterlogged soil can deprive the roots of the carbon dioxide it needs.
Put mulch on your soil surface
Mulch is any material laid or spread on the soil surface. Mulch can be fallen leaves, plant debris, stray and hay, stones, and many more.
Besides making your garden attractive and keeping weeds from growing, mulch has a wide range of benefits. It protects the plants from harsh conditions of winter freezes, thaws, and winds.
During winter, soil covered with mulch will be warmer, unlike unprotected soil. When there is drought, mulch helps retain soil moisture.
Just a note, it is crucial to research on what type of mulch and what amount of mulch is best for your plants. Again, too much can be disadvantageous.
Tidy up your garden
For the hanging or potted plants, you can put them in a shelter where they cannot be broken apart or be blown away when heavy winds come.
Tying the vines and stalking younger plants may help them from breakage. You can also trim hazardous trees. If there are dead parts of a tree, it is best to cut it off before strong winds carry it and fall on your plants.
Hopefully, by doing these protective measures, you will be able to protect your plants from the harsh weather, season-related factors, and climate. After all, who would want their effort, money, and love go to waste?
The four cumulative approaches of plant protection
To sum every up, you just have to keep an eye out on the four basic approaches of plant protection. These are:
There are three types of pesticides serving different purposes. The first type is herbicides, which are used to kill and remove unwanted growths such as weeds. The second one is an insecticide which is used to kill insects. Lastly, fungicides remove the perpetual growth of fungi.
The biological approach of protecting plants is the practice of using certain organisms to manage the job of controlling insects, weeds, and other disease-causing factors. For example, growing a ladybird population near your growing area will keep aphids out of your vegetable garden.
Barriers are physical structures the likes of nets, meshes, garden fleece, electronic fences, plant collars and garden cloches. These are used to protect plants from weather, disease-causing factors, and even from thieves.
One of the most popular examples of using psychology to a grower's advantage is by installing scarecrows in the middle of your fields. They're used to deter large animals such as birds that might be pecking on your plants every now and then.
Others would install a long string full of bells that when pulled, would produce a loud sound that used to scare roaming animals near your plants.