Plant protection in organic farming

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Although agriculture can look back on a longer history than most other professions, it is still confronted with problems on a scale unknown to other practical professions. In addition to soil fertility and protection, the main concerns are diseases, harmful insects and weeds.

In the 20th century, agriculture was characterized by the targeted introduction of resistance breeding, increasingly effective (and often less toxic) pesticides and inorganic fertilizers. At the same time, however, the limits of these new introductions have been dramatically demonstrated to us time and again (environmental and residue problems, resistance breakdowns). Thus, good professional practice in plant protection is based on the integration of:

  • Resistance breeding
  • cultural measures
  • Use of plant protection products
  • partly warning systems

Increasingly detailed knowledge of the relationship between environmental conditions and diseases and pests has been incorporated into ever better warning systems, which for some important diseases (e.g. late blight, apple scab, cereal rust and powdery mildew) have now also led significantly to a reduction in pesticide use. Despite great efforts, catastrophic epidemics continue to occur and some diseases cannot be controlled even with massive pesticide use (e.g. late blight). Therefore, many farmers and scientists have not been satisfied with this concept. Although in organic farming some plant protection problems have tended to be reduced by extended crop rotations and lower fertilization levels, many problems remain unsolved, and the elimination of synthetic chemical pesticides means that more alternatives must be sought. The targeted use of biological diversity can make an important contribution to plant protection.

Plant protection in organic farming, where is a need for action?

In organic farming, other diseases play a more important role than in conventional farming. For example, mildew and rust diseases of cereals are inhibited by the tendency to lower nitrogen supply. However, increased fertilizer applications, which are also increasing in organic farming due to higher quality requirements, are again promoting infestation. Since crop rotations are generally wider and more diverse in organic farming, soil-borne and other rotational diseases can usually be kept well in check.

Plant protection in organic farming, where is a need for action?: Read More