More attention has been given to insects as “pests” than is warranted by the evidence. Many species of native bees and flies pollinate crops, a process essential for some fruit and seed formation. Beneficial insects may also serve to suppress the development of harmful pest populations. Organic growers require a “whole system approach”– replacing external chemical inputs with an understanding of how biological resources on the farm can be utilized and encouraged to promote insect suppression.
Beneficial Insects II (EC1579), by Robert J. Wright, Terry A. DeVries and Jim A. Kalisch at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Department of Entomology
Managing Insects and Disease in Vegetable Crops
This video covers several topics, with the overall focus on organic pest and disease management. Speakers from Purdue, Ohio State University, and the University of Illinois address concerns specific to vegetable crops, including methods for managing and preventing pests and diseases.
One chemical–free way to deal with insect pests is to physically remove them from plants. As is typical of farming in general, organic pest control sometimes requires ingenuity. One practitioner, Ken Waters, has invented a handy tool to help with insect removal: the Super Dooper Beetle Scooper. The website also contains a variety of interesting current and past experiments with techniques, tools and organic inputs.
Healthy Soil, Fewer Pests
Michael Bomford, from Kentucky State University’s Organic Agriculture Working Group, makes the connection between supporting soil health and combating insects and weeds. Tillage, crop rotation, and other soil management methods can also help build strong plants and suppress pests. See Bomford's PowerPoint presentation.
Insect Management for Organic Farms
Ecological system approaches, “therapeutic” approaches, and Integrated Pest Management are all described in this presentation by Kim Stoner of Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Find proceedings of a 1998 farmer/scientist conference coordinated by Dr. Stoner at “Alternatives to Insecticides for Managing Vegetable Insects.”
Insect Pest Management in Vegetable Crops
ATTRA’s document library is an invaluable resource for organic farmers, both new and experienced. The Guide: Insect Pest Management in Vegetable Crops from UC Davis’ Vegetable Research and Information Center, outlines the steps a farmer should take before planting in order to be assured of the least possible pests.
ATTRA's Pest Management
ATTRA-National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service is a rich source of information on all aspects of organic farming. From the ATTRA's Pest Management site: “Pest management sometimes seems especially challenging for farmers dedicated to sustainable, low–input practices. If you’re looking to meet the challenge, this series of publications can help. These resources offer a wide array of techniques and controls to effectively reduce or eliminate damage from insects, diseases and weeds without sacrificing the good of the soil, water, or beneficial organisms.”
Peter, Darren and Paul Horne relate their personal experience with controlling difficult pests using a biological approach. Skip over the first 2.5 minutes of this video to get to the gist of how Peter Schreurs & Sons control Lettuce Aphid using IPM approach they have been developing since 2000.
It is clear that much more attention has been given to insects as “pests” than warranted by the evidence. Many species of native bees and flies pollinate crops, a process essential for some fruit formation and seed yield. Beneficial insects may also serve to effectively suppress the development of harmful pest populations. Organic growers require a “whole system approach”– replacing external chemical inputs with an understanding of how biological resources on the farm can be utilized and encouraged to promote insect suppression.Visit the Organic Resources page for more information.
Weed 'Em and Reap
eXtension's Weed ‘Em and Reap, is a two part series. Part 1 showcases tools and reduced tillage strategies for organic weed management. Part 2 features researchers and farmers demonstrating and describing organic reduced tillage vegetable production systems in West Virgina, North Carolina, and Montana. Organic reduced tillage strategies control weeds, improve soil quality, provide beneficial insect habitat, and in some cases reduce pest damage.
“eXtension.org is unlike any other search engine or information-based website. It’s a space where university content providers can gather and produce new educational and information resources on wide–ranging topics. Because it’s available to students, researchers, clinicians, professors, as well as the general public, at any time from any Internet connection, eXtension helps solve real-life problems in real time.”
Organic farmer Steve Pincus, of Tipi Produce, describes his general approach to soil fertility: compost and other bulky organic materials. Tipi Produce is located outside of Madison Wisconsin. They market their produce in regional cooperatives and whole food stores, and operate a CSA. This video was filmed during a field day, in the autumn of 2008: Beyond NPK at Tipi Produce Farm.
Martin Entz from the University of Manitoba’s Department of Plant Sciences and his research team have created and compiled several videos about topics within Sustainable Agriculture systems. Dr. Entz and his team use the term “Natural systems agriculture” to describe their work:
“First, we are committed to a fundamental change in the way agriculture is practiced. Second, we believe that using nature as the standard is the best approach for building this new agricultural system. Finally, Canadian prairie farmers have a strong conservation ethic, and have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to the land and to ‘farming in nature’s image.’ Farmers are active partners in our research.”
Feeding the Soil
Jonathan Deenik of the University of Hawaii offers this presentation, Basic Concepts in Nutrient Management for Organic Farming focusing specifically on nutrient management for organic farming. “Feeding the soil,” nutrient deficiencies and soil tests all receive coverage in this science-based presentation.
Building Soils for Better Crops
The national SARE program has published Building Soils for Better Crops Second Edition, by Fred Magdoff of the University of Vermont, the regional SARE Director and long–time advocate of practical and resource–efficient soil fertility management, and Harold van Es. The new edition includes effective management strategies that farmers can use to maintain soil organic matter using primarily on–farm, internal resources. They detail how fertility management can accompany appropriate crop and cover crop choices that influence soil structure and soil health, and also how to interpret soil test results for cost–effective soil fertility management. The entire text is available on their website.
Soil Quality from Iowa State
A good overview of soil quality and soil fertility provided by the Iowa State University Bulletin 1882 compiled by Kathleen Delate et al: “Building and maintaining soil quality is the basis for successful organic farming. However, before developing a soil management plan focused on soil quality in organic systems, farmers should become knowledgeable regarding the overall philosophies, legalities, and marketing opportunities in organic agriculture.”
This highly inclusive NRCS website about soil quality includes multiple references to organic farming and other practices related to soil fertility and pest management: