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A Xysticus sp. spider devouring a caterpillar of the European grapevine moth, Lobesia botrana © Sylvie Richart-Cervera

Organic farming favours pest regulation

Scientists from INRA, Université de Rennes 1 and their colleagues have demonstrated that organic farming favours the natural regulation and control of pests – pathogens, insects and weeds. These results, published in Nature Sustainability on 16 July 2018, offer interesting perspectives in terms of reducing the use of synthetic pesticides.

Updated on 07/27/2018
Published on 07/18/2018

Organic farming using no synthetic pesticides is generally considered to be beneficial to biodiversity. This suggests that the levels of natural processes supported by biodiversity, such as the natural regulation of pests (animals, pathogens or weeds) are higher in this context than under so-called conventional systems.

Within the framework of an international consortium, scientists from INRA, Université de Rennes 1 and their colleagues1 have explored this issue by performing a meta-analysis of the scientific literature, demonstrating the impact of organic practices on the stimulation of natural regulation and control of pests.

Organic practices stimulate the natural regulation of pests

Leptorchestes sp. spider eating a leafhopper.. © INRA, Sophie Chamont
Leptorchestes sp. spider eating a leafhopper. © INRA, Sophie Chamont

The scientists thus established that the natural regulation of pests (parasitism, predation or competition rates) was better under organic systems than conventional systems, for all types of pests (pathogens, animals or weeds). This observation suggests that organic practices stimulate the natural processes responsible for pest regulation.

The potential for organic systems to control pathogens, insects and weeds depends on the type of pest

In order to determine whether the levels of regulation – higher in an organic context than under conventional farming methods – resulted in lower levels of infestation, the research team also observed that the degree of pest control achieved under organic or conventional systems depended on the type of pest.
Thus organic cropping systems experience lower levels of infestation by pathogens (e.g. fungi or bacteria) than those managed conventionally. On the other hand, both organic and conventional systems suffer from the same levels of attack by animal pests (insects, nematodes, mites and others). Finally, organic systems are more affected by weeds than conventional systems, their presence probably contributing to the diversity of species antagonistic to pests and to an environment that is potentially less favourable to disease and animal pests.
These findings demonstrate the usefulness of organic farming practices in terms of pest regulation and the control of pathogens and harmful animals. They offer interesting perspectives to reduce the use of synthetic fungicides or insecticides without this raising the levels of pathogen or pest infestation.

1. The following units were involved from France: INRA-Bordeaux Sciences Agro Joint Research Unit for Vine Health and Agroecology, Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences (ISVV); INRA-ESA-Agrocampus Ouest Joint Research Unit for Biodiversity, Agroecology and Landscape Planning (BAGAP); Université Rennes I-CNRS Joint Research Unit for Ecosystems, Biodiversity and Evolution, and the Agrocampus Ouest-Université Rennes I Institute for the Genetics of the Environment and Plant Protection.

Contact(s)
Scientific contact(s):

Press Relations:
INRA News Office (33 1 42 75 91 86)
Associated Division(s):
Plant Health and Environment
Associated Centre(s):
Nouvelle-Aquitaine-Bordeaux, Brittany-Normandy

Reference

Evidence that organic farming promotes pest control. Lucile Muneret, Matthew Mitchell, Verena Seufert, Stéphanie Aviron, El Aziz Djoudi, Julien Pétillon, Manuel Plantegenest, Denis Thiéry & Adrien Rusch. Nature Sustainability, 16 July 2018. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0102-4