In agriculture and gardening, a beneficial organism is any organism that benefits the growing process, including insects, arachnids, other animals, plants, bacteria, fungi, viruses, and nematodes. Benefits include pest control, pollination, and maintenance of soil health. The opposite of beneficial organisms are pests, which are organisms deemed detrimental to the growing process.
Beneficial or pest
The distinction between beneficial and pest is arbitrary, subjectively determined by examining the effect of a particular organism in a specific growing situation.
Beneficial insects can include predators (such as ladybugs) of pest insects, and pollinators (such as bees, which are an integral part of the growth cycle of many crops). Increasingly certain species of insects are managed and used to intervene where natural pollination or biological control is insufficient, usually due to human disturbance of the balance of nature.
Certain microscopic nematodes (worms) are beneficial in destroying and controlling populations of larvae that are damaging or deadly to crops and other plants. They are commonly used in organic gardening for their ability to kill various kinds of harmful larvae (fungus gnats, flea larvae, spidermites, weevils, grubs, rootworms, cutworms, etc.)
Birds and other animals may, by their actions, improve conditions in various growing situations, and in such cases are also beneficials. Birds assist in the spread of seeds by ingesting the fruits and berries of plants, then depositing the seeds in their droppings. Other animals, such as raccoons, bears, etc. provide similar benefits.
Plants that perform positive functions can also be considered beneficials (companion planting is one technique based on principle of beneficial plants).
In agriculture, controversy surrounds the concept of beneficial insects. Much of this has to do with the effect of agrichemicals, like insecticides, herbicides and large quantities of synthetic fertilizers, on what are considered beneficials. Citing the reduction or elimination of various organisms as a side effect of agrichemical-based farming, some argue that critical damage is being done to the ecosystem, to the point where conventional agriculture is unsustainable. For example, if bee populations are reduced by insecticides aimed at other pests, pollination is inhibited and crops don't appear. If soil microorganisms are killed off, natural soil regeneration is inhibited, and reliance on mechanical and chemical inputs to keep the soil viable is increased. The longer term impact of these conditions has not been determined. Commercial ventures currently exist to provide pollinators and biological pest control.
- Integrated Pest Management
- Companion planting
- Sustainable gardening
- Sustainable landscaping
- Sustainable agriculture
- Organic farming
- Organic gardening