Ready-to-pick apple crop
image by apples, bekahboo42/morguefile .com
Traditional commercial apples are routinely sprayed with a host of toxic chemical pesticides and fungicides that are retained in the fruit and enter our food supply. Organic growers use safe methods to control insect pests and disease. Improving the quality of fruit and the yield is the object of any apple grower, and it takes a combination of pest control, fertilizer, and improved apple stock to see the best results.
Organic Pesticides on Apples
Dormant oil spray is an effective control to smother aphid eggs and mite eggs. Sulfur is commonly used as a fungicide against apple scab, but it must never be used within 7 to 10 days after dormant oil has been applied. Dormant oil should not be used within 4 days after sulfur was used, or if there is any sulfur residue on the trees. Dormant oil must be used in very early spring, before the green-tip stage of growth. Lighter summer oils should not be sprayed if temperatures are above 80 degrees.
Use Bacillus Thuringiensis as an effective biological control against several insects, especially some caterpillars. Pyrethrum is effective against other apple pests, and must be applied every 10 days.
Since there are not many effective organic treatments for plum curculio or apple maggot, pick up early dropped apples to remove hiding places. Neem oil is somewhat effective against the plum curculio.
Hang red ball traps baited with "Tangletrap"--about eight per tree--to attract and trap the flies whose larvae are apple maggots. Hang the traps in early July, before the flies lay their eggs. Clean the traps and apply new bait every few days during the summer to keep up with the fly population explosion.
Release ladybugs to control aphids. Praying mantis are also helpful against various insects and caterpillars.
Use good orchard sanitation to help prevent many larvae from overwintering. Applications of beneficial nematodes to the orchard soil will cause a decrease in the number of grubs. Proper pruning is important to maintain the health of the trees, and dead wood and dropped fruit must be removed from the ground and destroyed.
Plant cultivars that are resistant to pests and diseases. New varieties that have been bred to be resistant do not require as much spraying as older varieties, and they will give you superior quality fruit.