While, in principle, any pesticide use is discouraged in organic systems, a rather wide range of biorational pesticides is permitted. The frequency of pesticide use varies considerably with crop and location. For example, there is virtually no use of pesticides on organic row crops in the Cornbelt. By contrast, organic tree fruits in the Midsouth routinely receive heavy applications of several fungicides and insecticides allowable in organic production.
The pesticides permitted in organic farming fall predominantly into several classes.
Minerals: These include sulfur, copper, diatoma-ceous earth, and clay-based materials like Surround®.
Botanicals: Botanicals include common commercial materials such as rotenone, neem, and pyre-thrum. Less common botanicals include quassia, equisetum, and ryania. Tobacco products like Black-Leaf 40® and strichnine are also botanicals but are prohibited in organic production due to their high toxicity.
Soaps: A number of commercial soap-based products are effective as insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and algicides. Detergent-based products are not allowed for crop use in organic production.
Pheromones: Pheromones can be used as a means to confuse and disrupt pests during their mating cycles, or to draw them into traps.
Biologicals: One of the fastest-growing areas in pesticide development, biopesticides present some of the greatest hope for organic control of highly destructive pests. Among the most well-known biopesticides are the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) formulations for control of lepidopterous pests and Colorado potato beetle.
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