Evidence that organic farming promotes pest control

Abstract

Ecological intensification of agro-ecosystems, based on the optimization of ecological functions such as biological pest control, to replace agrochemical inputs is a promising route to reduce the ecological footprint of agriculture while maintaining commodity production. However, the performance of organic farming, often considered as a prototype of ecological intensification, in terms of pest control remains largely unknown. Here, using two distinct meta-analyses, we demonstrate that, compared to conventional cropping systems, (i) organic farming promotes overall biological pest control potential, (ii) organic farming has higher levels of overall pest infestations but (iii) that this effect strongly depends on the pest type. Our study shows that there are lower levels of pathogen infestation, similar levels of animal pest infestation and much higher levels of weed infestation in organic than in conventional systems. This study provides evidence that organic farming can enhance pest control and suggests that organic farming offers a way to reduce the use of synthetic pesticide for the management of animal pests and pathogens without increasing their levels of infestation.

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Fig. 1: Overview of all the study sites included in the meta-analysis where primary studies comparing pest infestation and/or biological control levels between organic and conventional farming systems have been conducted.
Fig. 2: Impact of organic management on biological control, as influenced by pest type, number of pest species monitored, experimental conditions of the study and crop type.
Fig. 3: Impact of organic management on pest infestation, as influenced by pest type, number of pest species monitored, experimental conditions of the study, crop type, location of the pest attack and number of years since the conversion to organic farming.

Change history

  • 14 December 2018

    In this Supplementary Information file originally published, the first equation in Methods was illegible; this has now been amended.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the authors of primary studies who provided us with additional data and to B. Castagneyrol and D. Makowski for helpful discussions and relevant advice about the analyses. We thank four anonymous reviewers for their careful reading of our manuscript and their many insightful comments. We also thank T. Nesme for helpful discussions and M. Desailly for her help in collecting the literature. This research was funded by the Région Aquitaine (REGUL project), the Région Bretagne (ARANEAE) and the Agence Française pour la Biodiversité (ex-ONEMA), and the joint call ‘Biodiversité-Ecophyto’ between Ecophyto and the French National Foundation for Research on Biodiversity (SOLUTION project). This study was also supported by the FP7-PEOPLE-2013-IRSES fund (project APHIWEB, grant number 611810). This study has been carried out in the framework of the Cluster of Excellence COTE.

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L.M., E.A.D., S.A., J.P., M.P., D.T. and A.R. conceived the work and designed the study. M.M. and V.S. contributed to data analysis and interpretation of the results. L.M. and A.R. collected the data, analysed the data, interpreted the results and led the writing of the manuscript. All authors contributed critically to the drafts and gave final approval for publication.

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Correspondence to Adrien Rusch.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figures 1-9, Supplementary Tables 2-14, Supplementary Discussion, Supplementary Methods, Supplementary References 1-19

Table S1

List of the studies included in the meta-analyses

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Muneret, L., Mitchell, M., Seufert, V. et al. Evidence that organic farming promotes pest control. Nat Sustain 1, 361–368 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0102-4

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