I've posted an article on Forbes taking a general look at the role of organic-approved classes of pesticides in California. The take-home points are that pesticide actives that are approved for use in organic made up 55% of the total crop use in 2013 and that those are used by both organic and conventional growers. I also take a look at the relative toxicity (simple acute ingestion toxicity) and there is a similar range for the organic and synthetic options. None of this is surprising because what determines whether a pesticide can be "organic" is whether it is "natural", and that is not a safety-based criterion. The safe use of all pesticides is the responsibility of the EPA and similar regulators around the world.
In this post I'd like to delve in more detail into what these widely used organic pesticides are and why they are used by all sorts of growers.
Major Categories of Organic-Approved Pesticides
In the first graph in this post I've divided the organic-approved materials into Mineral-based, Oil-Based, Natural Products and Live Biologicals. I'll talk about each category below.
The mineral-based pesticides that are approved for organic include sulfur, lime-sulfur, and various forms of copper. Together these materials comprise 34% of the pounds used but only 12% of the area treated. That is because these are relatively high use-rate materials (~2 to 25 pounds/acre).
|Conventional grape growers today use about 1/3 as much sulfur because they have other options
Petroleum Oil-based Products
|JMS Stylet Oil is a major organic brand in this category
|Spinosyn-A - some seriously fancy chemistry (image via Klever)
|Thrips cause these feeding scars you often see on snap peas or snow peas