On a sustainable farm the word beneficials refers to all the things that promote the long-term viability of that farm. It is most often used to indicate organisms, such as insects, that either eat pests or fill niches that pests might otherwise occupy. What is beneficial is highly dependent on the type of farm and the ecosystem the farm is located in. There may even be cases where a particular insect is beneficial for one type of farm and detrimental for another, just because of the different ecosystems.
Almost all crops have pests, but a sustainable farm will first encourage and utilize beneficial organisms that are already present in that ecosystem before turning to other control measures. Encouraging beneficial organisms may involve the planting of cover crops that provide refuge for the beneficial insects, making sure spray types and timings don’t reduce the beneficial insect population, timing mowing or harvesting to reduce beneficial insect mortality, or mixing crop types so that more beneficial insect species can thrive. In many cases, these beneficials eliminate the need for other controls such as sprays. For a fruit orchard beneficials might refer to the ladybugs, lacewings and other insects that control aphids and mites. It might also refer to viruses used to debilitate pest insects or even the spiders, earwigs, nematodes and other species present that help to keep the orchard system in balance. The use of beneficials is a way a sustainable farmer can utilize controls that are already present in the farm ecosystem and allow that system to operate without needing to introduce outside inputs that might disrupt other critical parts of the farm system.