Chapter 12

Insect Pest Management for Organic Crops

Pheromones for Controlling Insect Pests

The National Materials List at § 205.601(f) allows for the use of synthetic pheromones for mating disruption of insect pests. Pheromones target the reproductive life stage (the adult), thus preventing the development of the damaging life stage. Pheromones used in mating disruption are species-specific and are thus highly selective. Typically, only the primary target species responds to the pheromone, and non-target effects on biological control agents within a field or outside of a cropping system are not observed. They are generally non-toxic and will not control other pests. Additional benefits include reduced worker re-entry or pre-harvest intervals and limited impacts on other management practices, such as irrigation scheduling. Pheromone-based mating disruption has also been identified as a strong tool for managing insecticide resistance. The use of pheromones against key pests does not result in outbreaks of secondary pests or pest resurgence.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Insect Pheromones

Some of the advantages in using insect pheromones include their high species specificity and relatively low toxicity. Sex pheromones tend to be specific to a particular insect species or even strain of insect, making them one of the most targeted pest management strategies. This specificity thus maintains an ecological balance by leaving undisturbed populations of other insect species and non-target organisms.

Pheromones Used to Control Insect Pests

Pheromone-based devices have achieved the successful control of insect pests in almost all types of agriculture, including perennial orchards, vineyards, annual vegetables, and fiber crops. The following five insect pests have enjoyed historical and recent successes with pheromone-based management systems.

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