Biological Control

The educational materials listed on this page are about Biological Control.

What is biological pest control? Biological pest control mitigates agricultural pest damage by introducing or enhancing the population of pathogens, parasites or predators which prey upon the targeted pest. Biological control is often used in tandem with other pest management strategies, including physical controlcultural control and chemical controls.

There are three types of biological pest control. Classical biological control is the importation and release of natural beneficial insects for the biological control of exotic pests. Augmentation refers to the addition to the population of a natural enemy in a field where it is not currently present, or present only in small number. Producers who conserve the populations of augmented natural enemies or the ones that are already present in and around their fields are using conservation biological control. Biological pest control examples include the release of parasitic wasps to control corn borer, and lady beetles to control aphids in a wide range of crops. Biological pest control methods also include the integration of flowering crops and cover crops, vegetated buffer zones and crop rotations to provide beneficial enemies with adequate habitat.

The advantages of using biological pest control include the capacity to establish a sustainable population of predators that target a specific pest, avoiding the need for costly non-discriminatory pesticides (including biological pesticides) which can negatively impact the crop and/or beneficial organisms such as pollinators. The disadvantages of biological pest control include the risk of unpredictable and detrimental impacts on non-target species, which can reduce biodiversity in the agroecosystem.

SARE’s Manage Insects on Your Farm describes the role biological control plays in ecological pest managementA Whole Farm Approach to Managing Pests provides insights on how to rethink farming systems from the ground up to incorporate pest management into the entire production system. Cover Cropping for Pollinators and Beneficial Insects outlines how to select and manage cover crops to attract beneficial insects.

raising locally-adapted and disease resistant queens in Illinois

Raising Locally-Adapted and Disease Resistant Queens in Illinois

  It is no secret that we are losing bees at higher rates than ever before: On average, beekeepers lose 33 percent of their hives each year. This unfortunate occurrence is known as Colony Collapse Disorder, caused by many different factors such as disease, the varroa mite, pesticide poisoning and habitat loss. And while most […]

apple orchard pest management

Ecological Management of Key Arthropod Pests in Northeast Apple Orchards

Apples are an important crop in the Northeast, grown for both fresh market and processing. Growers have a challenging task managing insects, mites and diseases. By some estimates, growers may spend up to 25 percent of their production costs on pest management. This technical bulletin outlines strategies developed from SARE-funded projects in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, including biologically based pest control, orchard architecture and development of materials approved for organic production.

Agricultural innovations series fact sheet

Sustainable Pest Management in Greenhouses and High Tunnels

From 2007 to 2009, Cornell researchers in New York used a SARE grant to study the efficacy of biological insect control in minimally heated greenhouses and high tunnels or hoop houses. This fact sheet reports the results and provides detailed advice on how growers can use natural enemies to manage insect pests in minimally heated greenhouses and unheated high tunnels.

Peecan weevil

Biological Control of Pecan Weevils in the Southeast

This fact sheet provides an alternative control strategy for pecan growers who, for a variety of reasons, find conventional spraying of insecticides unsuitable. This includes organic growers, and owners of dooryard trees, small orchards and commercial orchards who have concerns regarding spray drift. 

Wireworm-biology.jpg

Wireworm Biology and Nonchemical Management in Potatoes

Larval wireworms are among the most destructive of soil insect pests. This publication reviews the wireworm literature and provides information on wireworm biology, monitoring risk assessment and nonchemical control options that can be integrated into a variety of production systems.

high tunnels mannual

High Tunnels

This manual on using high tunnels or hoop houses for season extension includes case studies, a supplier list and chapters on marketing, site selection, construction and types, and soil, pest and environmental management.

reading on organic insect management in sweet corn

Organic Insect Management in Sweet Corn

This fact sheet discusses an integrated strategy for controlling three caterpillar species—corn earworm, European corn borer and fall armyworm—using methods that meet current organic certification standards. Any grower interested in methods that are safe for the applicator and the environment may be interested in this approach.

Manage Insects

Manage Insects on Your Farm

While every farming system is unique, the principles of ecological pest management apply universally. Manage Insects on Your Farm highlights ecological strategies that improve your farm’s natural defenses and encourage beneficial insects to attack your worst pests.

transitioning to organic production guide

Transitioning to Organic Production

Transitioning to Organic Production lays out many promising conversion strategies, covering typical organic farming production practices, innovative marketing ideas and federal standards for certified organic crop production.