Organic vineyards reduce pesticide use but do not increase pest prevalence

Photo credit: Mat79

It is commonly believed that while organic farming reduces pesticide use, it can also increase pest infestations if non-chemical control is not sufficient to keep pest populations in check.  Now, a new study published in the Journal of Applied Ecologyhas tested this hypothesis to understand how pest pressure changes as the number of organic farms in the landscape increases. Researchers quantified infestations of two pathogens and five insect pests as well as pesticide use and crop productivity in 42 vineyards. They found that while organic vineyards utilized significantly less pesticides, their pest infestations were no different from conventional vineyards utilizing pesticides on the farm. They also did not lead to changes in pest prevalence in the surrounding agricultural landscape. Findings also showed the presence of semi-natural habitat near or on farms correlated with decreased pest infestations. “Our results clearly indicate that policies promoting the development of organic farming in conventional vineyard landscapes will not lead to greater pest and disease infestations, but will reduce the pesticide treatment intensity and maintain crop productivity. Moreover, the interactions between semi‐natural habitats in landscape and local farming practices suggest that the deployment of organic farming should be adapted to landscape contexts,” the authors concluded.