When Pesticides Can Be Used

(Note: The Provisions of the Organic Foods Production Act that deals with pest management refer to “crop pests, weeds, and diseases” – the summary below refers to all three as pests.)

The Organic Foods Production Act Provisions indicate that the producer must use management practices to prevent pests. Examples are crop rotation, allowed nutrient practices, sanitation, and selection of crop varieties that are suited to the site and resistant to pests. There are many ways to make the environment unfavorable for pests – some apply to all pests and some are pest-specific.

When preventative techniques are not sufficient, pests may be controlled through mechanical or physical methods, such as mowing weeds, augmentation or introduction of insect predators or parasites, and management practices that suppress the spread of the pathogens causing disease.

When preventative, mechanical, and physical methods are not sufficient, a biological or botanical substance or a substance included on the National List of synthetic substances may be used to prevent, suppress, or control pests. In this case, it is important to note the following:

The organic grower must have an Organic System Plan (OSP), which will include the practices used to prevent and manage pests. The conditions for using pesticides must be documented in the OSP. The plan must indicate that the grower will use preventative, mechanical, and physical methods, and monitor to determine if and when the pest is a threat to his crop. The grower uses his past records of pest problems and pesticide use to indicate in the OSP what pesticides he plans to use if conditions warrant their use. The indicators (such as the number of degree days) or pest thresholds that will be monitored and used to trigger the use of pesticides to prevent pests from reaching destructive levels must also be documented in the OSP.

The organic grower’s certifier approves the plan for compliance with the National Organic Plan (NOP). Some organic certification agencies or certifiers may have stricter rules than the NOP.


Initial compilation courtesy of Lenora Jones

Washington State University Extension