Using multitask nets and mechanization to eliminate pesticide use in apple orchards

Gérald Chouinard, researcher

Gérald Chouinard

Researcher

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Description

Québec apples, a healthy and popular fruit, are susceptible to a number of insect pests and diseases. Given the use of various pesticides in apple production, the apple is often ranked atop the list of “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables. Every year, 15 to 20 pesticide applications, including a number of neonicotinoid insecticides, are required to control the ten main pests found in this crop.

Exclusion nets have proven to be effective against nearly all of these insect pests, which means that it’s possible to develop apple growing practices in Québec that are not only neonicotinoid free, but also devoid of all pesticides (including acaricides, given that mite problems are a consequence of broad-spectrum insecticide use). Although the net exclusion microsystem studied in Québec since 2012 has demonstrated its effectiveness in controlling insect pests, some issues remain to be studied before it can be unreservedly recommended. Among these are the handling times for the nets, i.e., installation/removal and opening/closing, and the system’s profitability and durability over the long haul for various cultivars.

The crop enemies targeted by this project include the tarnished plant bug, apple weevil, red mite, apple scab, as well as the codling moth, apple maggot, two-spotted spider mite, weeds, growth regulators, exotic invasive species, and climate extremes.

 

Objective(s)

  • Assess the response of two apple cultivars to a new comprehensive net exclusion system (exclusion of insects, diseases, and weeds), in which no pesticides are used, that controls the top 10 apple pests, as well as invasive exotic species like the brown marmorated stink bug.
  • Sharply reduce the use of fossil fuels by using precision agriculture, i.e., the mechanization of pruning and thinning and the use of fruiting walls. Also, cut back on the number of spray applications per season and the net-handling time.
  • Assess the compatibility of this exclusion practice with other agricultural practices used in orchards, like spraying.

From 2019 to 2020

Project duration

Fruit production

Activity areas

Pest, weed, and disease control

Service

This project will lead to the development of pesticide-free apple growing in Québec.

Partners

Les Producteurs de pommes du Québec | Canadian Horticultural Council

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