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Disease Management

Organic Disease Management

A certified organic farm can control plant disease by implementing a variety of approaches. Good cultural management is a cornerstone to organic disease control, and includes good sanitation, crop rotation (when possible), keeping plants healthy, and the use of resistant varieties. Fungicides can be used as well, but for organic production, fungicide use is limited to using sulfur, copper, oils and bicarbonates to control plant disease outbreaks. These fungicides have been used for thousands of years, but are not as effective as synthetic fungicides. As a result, organic growers need to spray more often. This can be quite devastating to a farmer’s financial bottom line. As such it is important as an organic farmer to reduce the incidence of disease, maintain resistant varieties of crops/fruits, and build up plant defenses to lower the need for external inputs to control outbreaks.

Purdue University has conducted work on disease-resistant varieties of vegetables and fruits, which can be found on a variety of different websites within the College of Agriculture but predominantly in the Departments of Botany and Plant Pathology and Horticulture. A few can be found at the following links.

Oftentimes the most important aspect to dealing with disease in organic systems is in the cultural practices of cultivating and growing a crop. Maintaining a healthy soil creates a healthy plants less susceptible to disease.

Rotating your crops helps to diminish disease populations from building up. The following link gives you numerous practices to think about to reduce diseases from becoming problems.

Although you are not allowed in a certified organic farm to use chemical fungicides, there are some that are considered organic and can be used. The following link does a good job of explaining that the first step to disease management is identifying what you have and then determining what is allowed within the organic certification system.

Many PDF files can be found at the following websites that give you more information on how to manage disease in your crops, whether it is an organic or conventional system.