Insect Pest Management in Organic Seed Production

eOrganic authors:

Mary Barbercheck, Penn State University (introduction)

Linda Brewer, Oregon State University

Micaela Colley, Organic Seed Alliance

Alex Stone, Oregon State University

This is an Organic Seed Resource Guide article.

Pest management in organic farming systems is based on the practice of using fundamental components and natural processes of ecosystems, such as soil organism activities, nutrient cycling, and species distribution and competition, to prevent pest populations from reaching economically-damaging levels. For example, crops are rotated, planting and harvesting dates are carefully planned, and habitats that supply resources for beneficial organisms are provided. Soil fertility and crop nutrients are managed through tillage and cultivation practices, crop rotations, cover crops, and supplemented with manure, composts, crop waste material, and other allowed substances.

In organic systems, the goal is to design the production system so that pests do not find plants, are controlled by natural enemies (biological control), or their damage is kept to a minimum. Vigorous, healthy plants are more able to withstand damage caused by arthropods and disease. Therefore, a “plant positive” (as opposed to “pest negative”) approach of managing the system for beneficial processes and cycles and creating healthy soil and plants, is at the foundation of integrated pest management in organic systems.

For more information on the fundamentals of ecological and organic insect pest management, see eOrganic articles on insect pest management as well as the resources listed below.

Insect Pest Diagnostics

Plant diagnostic clinics at Oregon State University and Washington State University provide services to identify insects and arthropods and their damage. Services are provided to the public, but those interested in having a sample identified are encouraged to first contact their OSU or WSU County Extension office. Call for instructions before submitting specimens. Fees are required.


Plant Diagnostic Clinic
Link: (verified 20 Jan 2009)
Department of Botany and Plant Pathology
Oregon State University
1089 Cordley Hall
Corvallis, OR 97331
Phone: 541-737-5520
Fax: 541-737-3573

Western Washington

WSU-Puyallup Plant Diagnostic Clinic
Link: (verified 20 Jan 2009)
Jenny Glass
7612 Pioneer Way East
Puyallup, WA 98371-4998
Phone: 253-445-4582

Insect Pest Management Resources

Web resources

Diseases and pests of vegetable crops in Canada, R.J. Howard, J.A. Garland, and W.L. Seaman (eds.) 1994. The Canadian Phytopathological Society and the Entomological Society of Canada. Available at: (verified 3 June 2015).

Organic IPM field guide: Insect pests [Online]. ATTRA. Available at: (verified 2 Apr 2010).

Pacific Northwest insect management handbook [Online]. Available at: (verified 20 Jan 2009). This publication is updated each year and includes information on chemical and nonchemical management of insects in many crops.

Resource guide for organic insect and disease management [Online]. E. Brown Rosen, E. Sideman, A. M. Shelton, B. Caldwell, and C. Smart. 2006. Cornell University. New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. Available at: (verified 20 Jan 2009).

Whole farm approach to managing pests [Online]. SARE. Available at: (verified 2 Apr 2010).

Print resources

Handbook of vegetable pests. J.L. Capinera. 2001. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.

Insects and mites of economic importance in the Northwest. R.E. Berry. 1978. OSU Bookstores Inc., Corvallis, OR. Out of print.

Supplemental color photo guides from the University of California IPM program. Available for purchase from: (verified 21 Mar 2014).

  • Color photo guide to onion and garlic pests. University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Publication 3339PS3.
  • Color photo guide to sugarbeet pests. University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Publication 3339PS1.

Using beneficial nematodes for crop insect pest control. 2000. Pacific Northwest Cooperative Extension Publication 544. Available for purchase at: (verified 2 Apr 2010).


Published February 2, 2009

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.