Chapter 11

Insect Pest Management for Organic Crops

National Organic Program Standard for Insect Pest Management

The National Organic Program (NOP) final rule (United States Department of Agriculture [USDA], 2000) states certified organic growers must use a wide range of IMP practices to prevent crop pests, weeds, and diseases. Section § 205.206 of the NOP rule outlines the pest management practice standard. As stated in the rule, pest problems may be controlled through mechanical or physical methods. Only when these practices are insufficient to prevent or control crop pests may an organic farm manager apply either 1), a biological or botanical material not on the National List of non-synthetic substances prohibited for use in organic crop production (§ 205.602), or 2) a substance included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production (§ 205.601(e)–(f), to prevent, suppress, or control pests. However, the conditions for using the substance must be anticipated and documented in the organic system plan.

Section 205.206 Crop Pest, Weed, and Disease Management Practice Standard

Section 205.206 of the USDA’s regulations for organic production and handling outlines the requirements for crop pest, weed, and disease control for certified organic production. Part (a) lets producers know that management practices MUST be used to control pests and disease, to include sanitation, crop rotation, and site-specific cultural practices. Parts (b), (c), and (d) give specific mechanical and physical methods that MAY be used for the control of pests, weeds, and disease problems, respectively. It is not until part (e) where the regulations allow for the use of compliant materials / “materials consistent with the national list” to control pest, weed, and disease problems. A producer’s “organic farm plan” must outline the methods to be used for pest, weed, and disease control, and must also contain a listing of any and all materials to be used for organic production. The following is an excerpt from the NOP Final Rule regarding pest management standards:

Part (a) - Management Practices

The management techniques required for producers seeking certification include crop rotation and nutrient management, sanitation measures, and cultural practices such as proper varietal selection. All organic growers must provide for these techniques in one way or another. The organic farm plan must outline these management techniques. In addition to having specific techniques listed in the plan, producers often have to keep records or logs showing techniques are being implemented.

Part (b) - Pest Problems

For pest problems the Rule lists three physical methods for pest control (and does not preclude other methods). Augmentation or introduction of predators or parasites to control the pest species is often termed “use of beneficials.”

Part (c) - Weed Control

Weed control measures that can be used by organic producers include mulching with fully biodegradable materials (materials must be natural), mowing, livestock grazing, hand weeding and mechanical cultivation, flame, heat, or electrical means, or use of synthetic mulches that are removed after the growing or harvest season.

Part (d) - Disease Problems

The Rule does not list as many possible methods for disease problems as it does for weeds and pests.

Part (e) - The National List

Part (e) of § 205.206 allows for the use of materials provided for in the National List “when the practices provided for in paragraphs (a) through (d)… are insufficient…”. The National List is a term used to describe Rule sections 205.600 through 205.607. Section 205.601 lists the synthetic materials that can be used for organic crop production. This section is broken down into categories by use and/or function. Part a) lists materials that can be used as algicides, disinfectants, and sanitizers. Part b) lists materials that can be used as herbicides. Growers must be careful not to use allowed synthetic materials for a non-listed use.

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