Gain Control Of Pests In Organic Farming
Over the past 20 years, the organic sector of U.S. agriculture has been one of the fastest growing domestic markets. Sales of organic products have typically increased 15% to 20% a year since 1990, but still represent a very small portion (3.7%) of all food products sold in the U.S. Domestic sales of organic foods reached 24.8 billion in 2009 according to the Organic Trade Association.
For growers to sell products as organic, they must become certified following the requirement of the National Organic Program (NOP) established by the USDA in 2002. Certified organic farms must prepare and submit a farm plan that details all practices and inputs to show how they will comply with the National Standard. A USDA‐accredited certifier must approve the plans. Thereafter, farmers must also keep records to prove that they are following the approved plan. In addition, organic farms must be inspected every year to further ensure compliance. The NOP has many requirements for various management aspects of the farm, including pest management. Pest management in organic production systems requires a multifaceted program, taking into consideration variety selection, cultural methods, biologicals, and chemical applications approved by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) and certified organic under the NOP.
In order to demonstrate an adequate pest management strategy for certification, producers need to know which pest they are likely to find on their crops, the life cycles of those pests, pest levels tolerated by the crop, approximate time of emergence, method of dispersion, and the like. The challenge is to manage the interacting factors of the environment to minimize pest damage to crops. Due to the limited number of approved substances for pest control in organic production, this is achieved largely through prevention. Regardless of the pest, organic farmers emphasize pest prevention through avoidance strategies including sanitation, rotation, soil improvement, timing of planting, using resistant varieties, and similar best management practices. In addition to avoidance strategies, producers can use tactics that exaggerate naturally occurring control mechanisms, such as attracting and maintaining healthy populations of beneficial insects or using trap crops to deter pests from the cash crop where they can be controlled.