Insect pests have been a challenge since the dawn of farming, and over the years, farmers have found many creative ways to combat insects including traps with pheromone attractors, propagation of predatory insects, release of bacteria or other insect-disease-causing vectors, and, over the past 70 years, chemical pesticides. Though chemical pesticides are the most common means to control pests over most of U.S. farm acres, they are not an option on organically managed land.
Therefore, Rodale Institute is focusing its research on the more biologically-based approaches to insect management. We diversify our field rotations and create larger field buffers and natural areas, filled with diverse native plants to attract natural pest predators (such as other insects and birds). We’re also studying the habitat preferences of the insect pests in order to create more attractive and effective traps that can be easily created and employed by farmers. These traps include physical trapping structures and trap crops (special sections of pest-favored crops planted on purpose to attract the pest and keep it one area, away from the desired cash crop).
These approaches are designed to encourage nature to create its own sustainable balance of insect species and other members of the food web to create a healthy environment for plant growth.