Many people believe it's almost impossible to control disease and bugs with organic pest control on apple trees. However, techniques have improved in recent years, and many organic orchards are starting to prove that wrong.
Protecting Apple Trees the Organic Way
One of the challenges for the organic food industry is how to produce good-tasting fruit without disease and spots from bugs. Commercial companies are only able to grow spotless fruit through extreme pest control measures, spraying their orchards dozens of times with harsh pesticides throughout the year. While this kills the buys and prevents disease, it also puts these pesticides on the fruits and creates dangerous runoff for wildlife in the area.
Much research has gone into finding right things to use for organic pest control on apple trees. Here are a few things organic growers can use to keep the bugs away from your apples.
Here are a few examples of botanic-based pesticides used by organic orchards.
- Nicotine - Exactly as it sounds, nicotine is taken from tobacco and is considered highly toxic to humans. However, because it breaks down quickly, it is considered acceptable for use on fruits and vegetables in organic orchards.
- Pyrethrum - This widely used insecticide is extracted from the chrysanthemum plant and is considered one of the safest chemicals to use. It is non-toxic to most mammals.
- Rotenone - Taken from two roots in the Leguminoceae family, rotenone is considered moderately toxic to most mammals and is occasionally used on vegetables and fruits on organic farms.
Below are some mineral-based pesticides used to treat apples and other organic fruits and vegetables.
- Sulfur - Sulfur is considered perhaps the oldest of all insecticides, having been used for centuries to control pests in farming. It is very often used for apples and other fruit trees and is non-toxic to mammals.
- Lime-Sulfur - A combination of lime and sulfur, this product not only protects plants from bugs, but disease, as well. Due to the lime content, the product can burn both the skin and eyes during spraying.
How Organic Pesticides Differ
While most organic orchards do usually use some level of organic pest control on apple trees, these pesticides differ rather drastically from those used in commercial orchards. Here are a few points regarding the use of organic pesticides.
- Though organic pesticides do contain some level of toxicity, they tend to break down quicker and therefore have far fewer consequences on the animal and plant life in the area.
- Organic pesticides are taken from plant or animal sources, not from synthetic materials.
- Organic growers often spray fewer pesticides than their commercial counterparts.
- When compared with commercial produce, organic apples and other fruits and vegetables will have more spots and gnaw marks from bugs. It's part of the organic tradeoff.
Where to Find Organic Apples
Thankfully, it's much easier today than ever before to find fresh organic apples, as well as other fruits and vegetables.
- Farmers Markets - You can often discover the best local produce at farmers markets. It's good to note, however, that it's hard to guarantee that what you purchase there has not been treated with commercial pesticides. It's always a good idea to wash produce thoroughly before use.
- The Organic Produce Section - Most grocery stores now contain an area for organic produce. The benefit to this is that you can support organic growers without any extra drive time. Just buy it while you're shopping for other items at the store. You can also usually expect that these growers have been certified organic.
USDA Info on Apple Trees and Organic Pest Control
To learn more about the rules and regulations governing organic apples and growing practices, visit the USDA National Organic Program's website.