The basis of insect, disease, and nematode management in organic farming systems is the reliance on the inherent equilibrium in nature. Most insect pests have natural enemies to keep their populations in check. Natural enemies include insect predators (insects that consume part or all of pest insects), parasites (insects that use other insects to produce their offspring, thereby killing the pest insect in the process), and pathogens (diseases that kill or decrease the growth rate of insect pests). Predatory insects on organic farms include lady beetles, lacewings, and spiders. Parasitic insects include wasps and flies that lay their eggs in/on pest insects, such as larvae or caterpillars.
Beneficial insects exist naturally on farms, or they can be purchased from commercial insectaries and released seasonally. Also available are
commercial preparations of natural insect pathogens, such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which are used to manage pestiferous larvae such as corn borers.
Botanical insecticides, such as neem and ryania, also are allowed in organic production, but as with all insecticides, they should be used only as a last resort. Although these materials are naturally based, some materials may affect natural enemies.
Prevention is a cornerstone of organic farming. Only pest-free seeds and transplants should be brought onto organic farms. Physical and cultural methods are used to prevent pest infestations. Physical methods include the use of row covers for protection against insects, such as cabbage butterflies and aphids. Cultural methods include sanitation (destroying all infested plant material at season's end) and resistant varieties. The varieties used in organic farming have been bred traditionally (i.e., no manipulated gene insertion or engineering involved) for insect, disease, and nematode resistance or tolerance.
The basis of insect,
disease, and nematode management in organic farming systems is the reliance on the inherent equilibrium in nature.
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