In our ongoing efforts to learn and educate on the topic of pollinator health, our own Patricia and Sutter made a special trip to Xera Plants (www.xeraplants.com) in Portland to speak with co-owner Greg Shepherd about their pledge to use integrated pest management instead of harmful chemicals in the production of their crops. Xera is a wholesale grower and micro-retail outlet specializing in drought-resistant plants for the Pacific Northwest. By focusing on flexibility in their growing methods, Greg and the Xera team do not rely on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, and they have made a larger commitment to the health of pollinators & beneficial insects by going entirely free of systemic pesticides as a whole.
The nursery is surprisingly quiet about their no neo-nic pledge. We did not find any signage at the retail outlet, though other retailers in Portland (such as Garden Fever) sing their praises.
Greg pointed out that Xera’s hands-on methods of IPM are more labor-intensive than most large growers might be able to afford, but that Xera has seen the economic benefits of not falling into an endless cycle of chemical dependency. “The less you spray, the less you have to spray. Our view as a grower is to limit the plants that require a lot of chemical treatments of any type, specifically neonicotinoids.”
Speaking to the types of plants that Xera grows (and grows very well…), Greg remarked that it takes vigilance to identify species that can be hosts of undesirable pests. “There are other ways to treat besides spraying. For instance, black aphids kept getting our sedums this spring, so we decided to take a break on sedums for a while. After a couple months, the weather cycle changed, the population diminished. Gone. Crop clean. So you have to wait sometimes or cut things back and let them regrow.”
But the last word has to be this: “We bring our dogs to work…A lot of attention has been on neonics, but you have to look at fungicide use, growth regulators, etc., so neonics are the start of it … but it’s not worth having a toxic environment.” Many thanks to Greg Shepherd and the entire Xera Plants team for being at the forefront of this movement. Keep up the good work!
Here is a link to the entire audio of our interview: