Submitted to: International Bioherbicide Workshop
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/27/2003
Publication Date: 6/1/2003
Citation: Rosskopf, E.N., Koenig, R. 2003. Are bioherbicides compatible with organic farming systems and will business invest in the further development of this technology?. VI International Bioherbicide Workshop. 16. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: The organic industry is the fastest growing sector of U.S. agriculture today. According to the most recent estimate by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, the land devoted to certified organic crop and pastureland reached 2.3 million acres in 2001. This represents approximately 0.3 percent of total U.S. farmland. In the Third Biennial National Organic Farmers' Survey, published in 1999 by the Organic Farming Research Foundation, weed control was identified as the greatest obstacle to the implementation of organic production systems and weed management was identified as the number one priority area for research. According to the U.S. National Organic Program Standards, management practices for pest control must be incorporated into a crop production plan that includes crop rotation, nutrient management, sanitation, and physical and mechanical control measures. For weed control, approaches may include the use of biodegradable mulches, mowing, hand weeding or grazing. Plastic mulch may be used for weed suppression if the mulch is removed at the end of the growing season. While plastic mulch is permitted and does provide control of many weed species, there is considerable concern about the cost of removal of plastic mulch as well as limitations related to disposal. If the documented production plan has been implemented and weed control still remains a significant limitation to production, a biological control agent, used as an inundative input, could then be applied. Any material that would be used as a carrier for the agent or as an adjuvant at application must either be a natural product or included on the National List of allowed synthetic substances. The language of the National Standard requires that the researcher interested in the development of a biological control agent for weeds in organic production be intimately familiar with the production practices implemented and the weeds that still remain a problem to control. The selection of a system to work on is then highly specialized to the regional organic production system, rather than being considered as an additional market for an existing weed biological control agent. If there is a perceived problem with non-target effects, based on a broad spectrum of activity, the agent will not be acceptable in the organic system. If an agent has the potential to interfere with host plants for beneficial insects, for example, this would not be an acceptable biocontrol agent. Regardless of whether the target market is organic or conventional, high levels of efficacy as well as the ability to produce large quantities of inoculum inexpensively are important requirements. Although the number of tools that are available to organic growers seems limited, the assumption that they will accept a biological control agent that has marginal impact is false. There is a need for this technology and targeted research that involves input from local organic growers and certifying agents can significantly increase the success of a bioherbicide.