Successfully managing pests is one of the biggest challenges for farmers and ranchers who want to run their operations sustainably. In order to reduce their use of off-farm chemical inputs, they need management options that are reliable and profitable. More and more, farmers across the United States are realizing that ecological pest management strategies can provide what they’re looking for. For example, practices that promote natural enemies of pests on the farm provide an estimated $4.5 billion worth of pest suppression each year nationwide. Other common practices include rotating in new crops that disrupt pest cycles, enhancing a crop’s ability to compete against weeds and building soils that naturally suppress disease microorganisms. The ecological approach uses knowledge, biodiversity and resource management to produce healthy crops and keep pest insects, weeds and diseases at bay.

Ecological pest management is part of a holistic approach to farming, with benefits that go beyond limiting pest populations and the damage they cause. Improving soil health, supporting beneficial organisms, and maintaining plant and animal diversity all improve other aspects of farm management. The benefits can include, for example, more efficient management of soil nutrients and water. Also, a whole-farm approach improves risk management, which makes the farm more resilient to market fluctuations, extreme weather events associated with climate change, and other production challenges. These benefits can add up to improved profitability, either through lower production costs, more consistent yields, or both.