Managing Farms and Creating Habitat to Support Conservation Biological Control  

Farm Management Techniques

Friday, February 3

 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Native beneficial insects contribute to natural suppression of crop pests and potentially save the US $4.5 billion annually in pesticide costs. With the advent of chemical pesticides, the contributions of beneficial insects (those that prey upon or parasitize crop pests) were largely forgotten. However, pesticides alone have not solved the problem of crop pests. Conservation biological control is a strategy that seeks to integrate beneficial insects back into crop systems for natural pest control. This strategy is based upon a growing body of research that demonstrates a link between the conservation of habitat and the reduction of pest problems in farms, orchards, and gardens. By providing on-farm habitat and resources, organic farming is particularly suited to benefit from this biological approach to pest management. Furthermore, in January of 2016, the National Organic Program (NOP) issued guidance on how certified farmers need to meet biodiversity conservation requirements. Habitat for beneficial insects provides a useful framework for meeting both NOP and pest management goals.

Because farms are often subject to pesticide use, tillage, and mowing of field borders, they often do not provide enough alternative food sources and shelter to support large numbers of beneficial insects. In this workshop, we will provide a brief overview of beneficial insect ecology, general concepts for balancing the needs of beneficial insects with farm practices, and specific best management practices that minimize land-use and crop-management impacts on beneficial insects. We also will give detailed information on organic-approved techniques for creating habitat features that support the insects that attack crop pests.

Speakers: Eric Mader, Pollinator Program Co-Director, Xerces Society; Thelma Heidel-Baker, Conservation Biological Control Specialist, Xerces Society