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Farming Without Chemicals in Ohio
A Case Study Report

Author: Keith Dix
Innovative Farmers of Ohio
in cooperation with the Citizens Policy Center

8. Do organic framers have insect and disease problems?

For the most part, the organic farmers experienced very few, if any, insect and disease problems. It is quite possible that pests are kept in check by the ecosystem that evolves on an organic farm&emdash;buffer strips provide habitat for beneficials and clover offers a food source for beneficials. Four-year crop rotations may well interrupt the life cycle of certain insect pests, and the very mix of crops grown in such a rotation provides ecological diversity. Recent research at The Ohio State University's research facility in Wooster is confirming a basic tenet of organic farming&endash; a healthy soil promotes the growth of healthy plants that are, in turn, less susceptible to insect and disease damage.

Each farmer was asked specifically, "Do you have insect problems?" Ron G. "No, we really don't. I can't recall any type of insect problem we've ever experienced."

Byron K. "Not very much. When I was doing alfalfa I virtually had no problems."

Lynn W. "We really haven't had too much trouble with insects. This year we've seen some Japanese beetles in the beans and in the corn, too, a little but not enough to cause a big problem."

Nelson W. "One of the biggest problems I have is the alfalfa leafhopper. If you get plenty of rain it's not a problem, but with a long dry spell the leaf hoppers will cut my alfalfa yield back for maybe one cutting. But then later on it will pick up again, so I don't worry about it too much."

Geoff M. "No. I had them in the conventional acreage last year, spider mites. I don't see any insect problems in the organic."

Jeff D. "Not until last year. We had some in the beans. I think it was bean beetles that carried in some disease or fungus and may have reduced yield by 5 percent, but the drought may have also have been the cause. The corn borer is not really a problem, maybe one year in ten. Other than that I haven't seen any problems."

Steve B. "It has never been a problem until maybe last year. We saw a lot more chewing on the bean pods that we've had in the past. We had both Japanese beetles and bean beetles out there but who was doing the most damage, I'm not sure. As far as other insects, we don't have any problems."

Dean Mc. "No, not really. We see insects in our fields, but none that are damaging the plants. I see signs of spider mites and leaf damage in other peoples' crops but not here."

With the one exception, all of the farmers reported that they have no problems with plant diseases.