Unfortunately, pests are a problem for all gardeners – even aquaponic ones.
An aquaponics system has to be kept completely organic, because whatever you spray on the plants will eventually make it back to the fish. If toxic chemicals are sprayed on your lettuces you will fairly swiftly have some dead fish floating around on the top of the water…not nice for you, and especially not nice for the poor fish!
You can buy organic pest sprays that are specific for use in aquaponics. These are great as they have been studied and proven to control pests whilst still being safe for use.
However, you may also wish to experiment making your own, and lots of people swear by home remedies and use nothing else. This is a much cheaper way to manage bug control. Some people like to use a mix of shop bought and homemade.
Garlic and Onion Spray
Garlic and onion both contain a chemical called allicin, which is highly effective in deterring pests.
1. Mince one large organic clove of garlic (or two small cloves) and one medium sized organic onion.
2. Add 4 cups of pure water, cover and leave for one hour
3. Add 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and 1 small teaspoon of washing up liquid
4. Strain through a sieve and put into a spray bottle
5. Spray away!
Note: Only spray on the leaves of the plants and not on the roots or the media they sit in. Also be careful not to spray too near the fish as if it goes directly into the tanks this can harm them. This spray should be stored in the fridge and will last for one week.
In fact, even outside your aquaponics system, you want to steer clear of non-organic pesticides.
Back in the 1960’s, American conservationist Rachel Carson prophetically raised environmental concerns regarding the use of chemical pesticides. Today’s scientists now confirm what she said fifty years ago – that these unnatural ingredients are highly toxic and dangerous for humans, not to mention the general wildlife and the very earth.
The following is taken from her infamous book, Silent Spring:
What sets the new synthetic insecticides apart is their enormous biological potency. They have immense power not merely to poison but to enter into the most vital processes of the body and change them in sinister and often deadly ways. Thus, as we shall see, they destroy the very enzymes whose function is to protect the body from harm, they block the oxidation processes from which the body receives its energy, they prevent the normal functioning of various organs, and they may initiate in certain cells the slow and irreversible change that leads to malignancy.
The use of chemicals in farming – whether we like it or not – is now an unavoidable part of all our lives. The following is also taken from Silent Spring:
For the first time in history, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death. In the less than two decades of their use, the synthetic pesticides have been so thoroughly distributed throughout the animate and inanimate world that they occur virtually everywhere. They have been recovered from most of the major river systems and even from streams of groundwater flowing unseen through the earth. Residues of these chemicals linger in soil to which they may have been applied a dozen years before. They have entered and lodged in the bodies of fish, birds, reptiles, and domestic and wild animals so universally that scientists carrying on animal experiments find it almost impossible to local subjects free from such contamination. They have been found in fish in remote mountain lakes, in earthworms burrowing in soil, in the eggs of birds — and man himself… They occur in the mother’s milk, and probably in the tissues of the unborn child.
Scary stuff. Say YES to organic!
Aquaponics in India will soon be offering consultancy services. Please get in touch for more information.