Transition from Conventional to Organic Farming Systems: I. Challenges, Recommendations, and Guidelines for Pest Management

in HortTechnology
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  • 1 Department of Environmental Horticulture, 1533 Fifield Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611

Conventional agricultural systems increase per-area food production, but deplete natural resources and degrade both crop and environmental quality. Many of these concerns are addressed by sustainable agricultural systems, integrated pest management, biocontrol, and other alternative systems. Environmental and social concerns have escalated the need for alternative agricultural systems in the last decade. One alternative, the organic farming system, substitutes cultural and biological inputs for synthetically made fertilizers and chemicals for crop nutrition and pest management. Practices used for crop and pest management are similar during transition from conventional to organic farming systems, but produce is not certified to be organic during the transition period. During the transition from conventional to organic farming, growers may face pest control difficulties and lower yields when conventional practices are abandoned. The objectives of this paper are to 1) give an overview of the reasons for converting to organic farming and the challenges that growers face during the transition period, 2) outline some potential strategies for crop, soil, and pest management, and 3) list guidelines and recommendations for pest management during the transition to organic farming. Implementation of crop and pest management practices depends on geographical location, climate, available onsite resources, and history of the land. During transition, growers rely on cultural mechanisms and on organic and mineral sources to improve soil fertility, to build a population of natural enemies to suppress pest populations. Pest management practices during the transition period that reduce pest populations to economically manageable levels include crop rotation, cultivation, cover crops, mulches, crop diversification, resistant varieties, and insect traps. These practices also enrich the soil biota and increase crop yields before produce is certified organically grown.

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