Ecological pest management goes beyond attempts to manage individual pests. Instead, the whole farm is managed to create environments that crops and livestock can thrive in. This systems-level approach considers the impacts of management decisions not only on your cash crops and their pests, but across the whole farm. This is a more knowledge-intensive approach. Growers work to strengthen on-farm ecosystem services by combining good agricultural practices with crop production needs. The goal is to focus on sustainable, proactive and preventive strategies that create healthy crop environments, rather than to rely on reactive, input-based controls that degrade the environment and promote pests in the long term.

Tomatoes and Mulch
Growing tomatoes inside a high tunnel protects the crop from many pests and extends the market season. Straw mulch shades out weeds and limits the transmission of pathogens from the soil to plant leaves, while also improving soil health as it decomposes. Photo by David Van Eeckhout, The Good Acre

Regular field scouting and record-keeping are integral to developing a holistic approach to farm or ranch management. Correctly identify and develop working knowledge of the pests and beneficials present in your fields and surrounding region, then use this knowledge to assess the pests’ potential to damage your crops. Use an integrated set of strategies that includes cultural (planting dates, plant diversity, proper irrigation), biological (predators and parasitoids) and physical control (row covers, traps) methods, and use selective agrochemicals only as a last resort.