Pest Management in Organic Farming Systems: The NOP Standard

eOrganic author:

Mary E. Barbercheck, Penn State University

The National Organic Program (NOP) final rule (United States Department of Agriculture [USDA], 2000) defines organic production as a production system that is managed in accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and regulations to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and preserve biodiversity. Certified organic growers use a wide range of IPM practices that comply with the NOP standards.

Section §205.206 of the NOP rule outlines the pest management practice standard. The rule states that a producer must use management practices to prevent crop pests, weeds, and diseases including but not limited to:

  • Crop rotation and soil and crop nutrient management practices (§205.203 and §205.205)
  • Sanitation measures to remove disease vectors, weed seeds, and habitat for pest organisms
  • Cultural practices that enhance crop health, including selection of plant species and varieties with regard to suitability to site-specific conditions and resistance to prevalent pests, weeds, and diseases

As stated in the rule, pest problems may be controlled through mechanical or physical methods including but not limited to:

  • Augmentation or introduction of predators or parasites of the pest species
  • Development of habitat for natural enemies of pests
  • Non-synthetic controls such as lures, traps, and repellents

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 nonsynthetic 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.

For more on application of IPM principles to organic weed management, see Integrated Pest Management Concepts for Weeds in Organic Farming Systems.

References and Citations


Published February 9, 2009

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.