Cabbage growing in an organic garden.

IPM and Organic

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How are they related? How do they differ?

Organic agriculture is a set of production practices regulated by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). The NOP regulations cover all aspects of crop production, from soil management, crop rotation, seed selection, and pest management to harvest records, post-harvest handling, and labeling. Materials, such as pesticides and fertilizers, allowed for organic production must also meet NOP standards. When marketing crops or products labeled as organic, farmers must be certified by a NOP accredited certification program for that crop or product.

Organic lawn and landscape care is not regulated by the NOP, but the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) has developed and administers a program to train and accredit lawn and landscape care professionals who use an organic approach.

IPM focuses on protecting crops, livestock, landscapes, buildings, and facilities from damage caused by pests—insects, mites, plant diseases, weeds, and wildlife. The IPM approach to pest management strives to reduce environmental, health, and economic risks by integrating a variety of practices covering all aspects of crop production that can help prevent pests, forecast pest occurrence, and monitor pest levels. With IPM, farmers and landscape managers use pesticides only when needed to keep crop damage below economic levels, will know when pesticides aren’t necessary, and will use agronomic and horticultural tactics to eliminate pesticide use altogether. IPM practices are developed by university researchers and are not regulated by the government.

There are no formal restrictions on the types of pesticides and fertilizers used by IPM practitioners, as there are for those used in organic production. All pesticides must meet US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration requirements, whether used in organic or in IPM production. Food labels will usually indicate if a product is organic, but don’t typically indicate that a product was grown using IPM practices. Some certifying agencies include IPM as part of a comprehensive sustainability labeling program, and some of those programs do limit the types of pesticides participating growers can use.

Both IPM and organic approaches seek to minimize the environmental impacts of pest management practices. NYS IPM, in collaboration with research and extension colleagues, has developed and promotes many pest management practices that are allowed for organic production, including crop rotation, the use of pest-resistant varieties, biological control, pest forecasting and monitoring. Many NOP crop production practices used by organic farmers and land care professionals to prevent pests are the same IPM practices used by practitioners who are not certified organic.

NYS IPM works with all producers and managers, and the IPM approach works for all types of production systems, conventional, sustainable, and organic, to achieve successful pest management, while at the same time minimizing environmental, health, and economic risks.