Best Practices for Pest Management in Organic Farm Production
Organic farming relies on methods which combine scientific knowledge of ecology and modern technology with traditional farming practices based on naturally occurring biological processes. It is a farming system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. The principal methods of organic farming include crop rotation, green manure and compost, mechanical cultivation and biological pest control.
Farmers are faced with myriad of production challenges where the most common problems are pests, which include insects, diseases, and weeds. They integrate cultural, biological, mechanical, physical and chemical practices to manage pests.
Cultural practices – rely on a strategy to make the crop or habitat unacceptable to pests by interfering with their oviposition preferences, host plant discrimination or location by both adults and immatures. Those can be achieved with practices such as crop isolation, mixed cropping, and crop rotation. The timing of sowing and planting can be used to allow young plants to establish to a tolerant stage before an attack occurs and to reduce the susceptible period of attack. Management of trap and nursery crops and surrounding environment is also included to divert insect attack away from the crop.
Mechanical and physical control - include tillage, mowing, cutting, mulching and organic soil coverage and barriers. Tillage turning the soil between crops to incorporate crop residues and soil amendments. It also destroys weeds and disrupts pest life cycle.
Biological control – biological control in organic plant protection is a method of controlling insect pests and diseases using other organisms which rely on predation, parasitism and herbivory, or some other natural mechanisms with active farmer's management interaction. Natural enemies of insect pests, known as biological control agents, are predators, parasitoids and pathogens. For weeds biological control, agents are seed predators, herbivores and plant pathogens, while for plant diseases biological agents are antagonists. In organic farming, biological agents can be imported to locations where they don't naturally occur, or farmers can make a supplemental release of natural enemies, boosting the naturally occurring population.
Chemical control - organic standards are designed to allow the use of naturally occurring substances such as pyrethrin and rotenone. Farmers avoid the use of broad-spectrum synthetic pesticides, which severely disrupt natural control and promote the occurrence of secondary pests such as spider mites, brown planthoppers and Rhizoctonia. There are also few synthetic substances allowed in organic farming, such as fixed coppers (copper hydroxide, copper oxide, copper oxychloride, copper sulfate), hydrated lime, hydrogen peroxide, lime sulfur, and potassium bicarbonate.
Practices used in organic pest management
To design and implement best practices of pest management in organic farming, it is also necessary to have accurate knowledge of crop and pest biology, ecology, phenology and of pest-crop interactions, while following strictly regulated rules of organic farming. In many counties around the world, it's regulated by an inspection, certification and labeling scheme.
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Text source: Ecological Agriculture Projects Image source: Organic Daily Post
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