Pesticides Approved for Organic Production That Every Gardener Might Like to Try

— Written By Bill Hanlin and last updated by JoAnne Gryder
Fresh organic farmers market fruit and vegetable on display

Fresh organic farmers market fruit and vegetable on display

Many people think gardeners that grow organically never use pesticides. There are pesticides that are approved for organic production and can effectively control insect pests and diseases. Pesticides used in organic production are mainly derived from natural products like plants and minerals.

Botanical pesticides, as the name implies, are derived from plants. Common botanicals, that can be found locally, include pyrethrum, neem, and garlic. These types of products are non-selective, which means they can control a wide variety of pests.

Biological pesticides contain disease organisms or toxins derived from these organisms. Probably the most common biological is an organism called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. Biologicals usually have a narrow pest range that they control. Bt, for example, just controls caterpillars.

Pesticides that are derived from minerals are also commonly used in organics and include sulfur, copper and diatomaceous earth. Sulfur and copper can be very effective in suppressing plant diseases, while diatomaceous earth helps repel certain insects. Care should be taken in using mineral based pesticides, like copper, as they may damage the plant in certain conditions.

Spray oils are generally derived from plants or animals, although some oils may be petroleum based. Oils work by suffocating insect pests like scales and mites, so thorough coverage is needed. Again, care should be taken as oils can also damage plants if you have freezing conditions or hot weather after application.

Other chemicals used in organic production include insecticidal soaps and insect pheromones. Read the label if you choose to use one of the products to make sure that it is going to control the pest you have. Also, realize that most of the products break down very quickly, so reapplying often may be needed for satisfactory pest control.

Written By

Photo of Dr. Bill HanlinDr. Bill HanlinRetired County Extension Director (336) 651-7333 william_hanlin@ncsu.eduWilkes County, North Carolina
Posted on Dec 28, 2016
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