Geoff Zehnder, Clemson University

An excess of available nitrogen can increase the susceptibility of some crop plants to outbreaks of aphids, mites and other arthropod pests, like these potato aphids, Macrosiphum euphorbiae (Thomas), on lettuce. Figure credit: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University,

Proponents of organic farming have long promoted the view that the likelihood of pest outbreaks is reduced with organic farming practices, including establishment and maintenance of “healthy” soil . Recent studies have shown that plant resistance to insect and disease pests is linked to optimal physical, chemical, and—perhaps most importantly—biological properties of soil. Other researchers have reported evidence of various types of signaling between soil and plants mediated by soil organic matter that could be enhanced by management.

In organic farming, enhancement of soil fertility is accomplished through rotations, cover cropping, and the application of plant and animal materials. This article addresses some of the main elements of soil management that can help to reduce insect pest problems, including soil and fertility management, use of mulches, and sanitation.

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