The educational materials listed on this page are about Pest Management.
Producers must control a wide range of insect, weed and disease pests that can disrupt the healthy growth of crops. Given increasing resistance to chemical control methods (including organic pesticides and natural pesticides) farmers are increasingly adopting multifaceted strategies to keep pests at bay. These strategies include the biological controls and cultural controls featured in integrated pest management (IPM) as well as traditional chemical and physical controls. Integrated pest management (IPM) uses a range of ecological strategies to prevent pest damage and resorts to the use of pesticides only when monitoring indicates such action is required to avoid economic loss. Whole farm pest management systems build upon the biological pest control approach of IPM systems by integrating ecological pest management practices into all aspects of crop production. Soil organic matter and nutrient management, tillage, crop rotation and field boundaries, borders and buffers all play an important role in both increasing crop pest resistance and reducing pest pressures. Weed control is a challenge on all types of farm operations. A successful weed management plan will vary depending on the type of operation and whether it is conventional or organic. Helpful practices in an integrated weed management plan may include chemical weed control (conventional and organic herbicides), the use of mulches (living mulch or cover crops, killed mulches, plastic mulch), tillage or cultivation, crop rotation, and more novel techniques such as soil solarization or using geese or goats for weed control.
SARE’s Manage Insects on your Farm addresses the principles of ecological pest management. A Whole Farm Approach to Managing Pests provides tips for designing whole-farm pest management solutions. Managing Cover Crops Profitably, Crop Rotations on Organic Farms and Steel in the Field also provide helpful insights into the roles cover crops, rotations and tillage can play in pest management.
Farmers need to understand disease management on the farm to employ effective plant disease control methods. Becoming familiar with crop diseases means utilizing myriad effective strategies to prevent and control diseases. Various integrated management practices control the spread of disease including biological control, physical control and cultural control. Chemical control may include synthetic fungicides, while organic producers rely on an organic fungicide or other natural fungicide to aid in crop protection. For example, disease management in tomatoes, which are susceptible to many diseases, includes the use of resistant cultivars, sanitation, sound cultural practices and fungicide for tomatoes. While there are many chemicals available for different crops, such as fungicide for grass or soybean fungicides, holistic or integrated approaches to disease management are also important tools for effective plant disease control. Key practices include integrated crop and livestock systems, crop rotation, utilizing disease resistant varieties and cultivars, cultural control, biological control, physical control, chemical control, and prevention.
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Farmer-Focused Innovations Funded by SARE
“Institutionalized food is the forgotten part of the food revolution,” says Ann Swanson, talking about the lack of fresh produce available from local institutions in her community of Champaign–Urbana, IL. Inspired, Swanson used a SARE Farmer/Rancher grant to create new opportunities for local farmers, launch a series of educational classes and expand institutional capacity to […]
Manage Weeds on Your Farm: An Ecological Approach
SARE’s newest book, "Manage Weeds on Your Farm: A Guide to Ecological Strategies," examines the biology and behavior of common weeds and provides an integrated set of non-chemical control strategies that exploits their weaknesses.
2021–2022 Report from the Field
Report from the Field features 12 stories from around the country of recent SARE grantees who are finding new ways to improve the sustainability of U.S. agriculture. The report also summarizes our total investment in research and education projects since 1988.
Soil Health Principles and Practices Videos
Experienced farmers and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) provide information on managing and improving soil health. Farmers discuss practices such as cover cropping, and using mulch and compost to improve soil health.
Manage Weeds On Your Farm
Manage Weeds on Your Farm is a definitive guide to understanding agricultural weeds and how to manage them efficiently, effectively and ecologically—for organic and conventional farmers alike.
New SARE Video "Ecological Pest Management"
SARE's new “Ecological Pest Management” animation highlights how farmers can use natural principles to control pests and improve the health and productivity of their production systems. The fifth episode in SARE's "What is Sustainable Agriculture?" series introduces key components of ecological pest management and is intended to complement more detailed training materials. Ecological pest management strategies […]
A Sustainable Approach to Controlling Honey Bee Diseases and Varroa Mites
This fact sheet describes efforts to breed honey bees, Apis mellifera, resistant to diseases and parasitic mites to reduce the amount of antibiotics and pesticides used in bee colonies and to ensure that our breeding methods and stock are accessible to beekeepers everywhere.
New SARE Bulletin Addresses Ecological Approach to Managing Pests
A flock of sheep is vital to the success of one particular vineyard in Winters, California. While many operations struggle to manage weeds, this vineyard used a SARE-funded grant to test grazing sheep as a pest management practice, and they are seeing many whole-farm benefits. The sheep were trained to avoid the grape crop’s leaves […]
A Whole Farm Approach to Managing Pests
This 16-page bulletin helps producers—and the educators who work with them—use ecological principles across the entire farm to control pests.
Conservation Tillage Systems in the Southeast
This production manual provides comprehensive guidance on conservation tillage systems for farms in the southeastern United States. It covers the core components of conservation tillage systems and includes both regional considerations and producer experiences.
Free Fact Sheets Identify Broad Benefits of Cover Crops
Along with cutting costs and increasing crop productivity, cover crops provide various ecosystem services that benefit the environment both on and off the farm. For instance, adding cover crops to a rotation can significantly increase the portion of the year when living roots are present for soil organisms to feed on, which can have a […]
What is Soil Health?
Soil health plays an essential role in raising healthy, productive crops and livestock. With this interactive infographic, learn how practices such as cover crops, no-till, crop rotation and the integration of livestock work in concert to improve soil health.
Cover Crop Economics
Cover crops can build soil health, control weeds, conserve moisture, provide grazing opportunities and more. But when do they start to pay for themselves? This analysis looks at the economics behind different management scenarios to determine if cover crops are likely to improve profitability in one, three or five years of use in corn and soybean rotations.
Using Flowering Insectary Borders to Boost Natural Enemies
Beneficial insects play an important role in managing insect pests and pollinating crops, but they struggle to thrive in and around farms that have low plant diversity and rely mainly on tillage. Routine soil disturbances and low plant diversity can mean fewer prey, shelter and plant-based resources available to support natural enemies, especially early in […]
Cultivating Partnerships: Building Farm-Research Networks for Improved Physical Weed Control
Managing and controlling weeds can be a challenge and a frustration for farmers, no matter the farm size or crop. Associate professor of horticulture at Michigan State University, Daniel Brainard, knows that weed management represents a major barrier to sustainable production of both field and vegetable crops. Brainard has been researching new tools and techniques […]
Now Available: 2017 National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health Presentations
Videos and presentations from the 2017 National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health held on December 7-8, 2017 in Indianapolis are now available. Hosted by the Soil and Water Conservation Society with video development supported by SARE, the conference highlighted insights from some of the nation's most innovative producers, conservation leaders and scientists on using cover crops to […]
Updated SARE State Summaries and Grants Lists Now Available
Since 1988, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program has been a go-to USDA grants and outreach program for farmers, ranchers, researchers and educators who develop innovations that improve farm profitability, protect water and land, and revitalize communities. SARE has awarded over $251 million to more than 6,300 projects. Learn more about funded grants, […]
30 Years of SARE: Our Farms, Our Future
A group of eight Minnesota farmers interested in using cover crops to improve the health of their soil and profitability of their farms had a problem—there was scant information on how to manage cover crops in their area, where the growing season is short. But they were willing to lead the way, so in 2014 […]
Investing in the Future of Agriculture: How SARE Supports Farmer-Driven Sustainability
The most pressing challenges that face U.S. agriculture today require science-based solutions developed by partnerships of farmers, ranchers, researchers and educators. Discover how the SARE program enables such partnerships to flourish and meet the needs of agricultural communities across the country.
30 Years of SARE: Our Farms, Our Future
30 Years of SARE: Our Farms, Our Future tells the story of thousands of men and women who have led SARE and received SARE grants. They have one objective in common: making American agriculture stronger, more sustainable and better equipped to face the challenges of today and tomorrow.