Small Apple Growers in Italy’s Trentino Region Benefit Greatly from Insecticide Use

Trentino Region

Trentino Region

The province of Trento, or Trentino, is a mountainous region and an important producer of apples with annual production of about 450,000 tons accounting for about 20% of Italian production. Apple farming is the main source of income for about 10,000 families in Trentino. In addition, another 6000 families depend on income from the apple sector for packing, transportation and other secondary activities. In 1989, the Public Administration of Trento approved a program for Integrated Production standards. Since 1991, Integrated Fruit Production (IFP) guidelines have covered all aspects of production. The apple crop in Trentino is almost completely managed by IFP standards. In Trentino, codling moth has two generations per year. The most common situation includes an application of an insect growth regulator at the first egg-laying period and two more treatments using insecticides with a different mode of action. In Trentino, uncontrolled codling moth would damage 50-90% of the apples. Apple production in Trentino remains generally quite profitable and provides a major contribution to the economic and social standards of the province. By preventing damage from insects and pathogens, pesticides play an essential role in the economic and social well-being of the region.

“Codling moth (CM), Cydia pomonella L., is a key pest affecting pome fruit worldwide. In the Trento province (northern Italy) control of this pest is achieved by integrated pest management (IPM) programmes, largely relying on insect growth regulators (IGRs) during the first generation and on curative pesticides timed according to the injury threshold level during the second generation. In large apple orchards, mating disruption is preferred and is normally combined with one insecticide application during post-flowering to control lepidopteran larvae in general, including leafrollers. Because of their efficacy against both overwintering leafroller larvae and CM eggs, IGRs are widely used.”

Authors: Ioriatti, C., et al.
Affiliation: IASMA Research Center, Italy.
Title: Early detection of resistance to tebufenozide in field populations of Cydia pomonella L.: methods and mechanisms.
Source: Journal of Applied Entomology. 2007. 131[7]:453-459.

Tea Leaves Need Protection from Fungal Blisters

Funky Green Leaves

Blister Blight on Tea Leaves

Leaf diseases are very important in tea production since the plants are grown for their young leaves. The major foliar disease of tea in Asia is blister blight. Wind-borne spores germinate on the leaf in humid conditions and the leaf is penetrated. Further growth presses out and eventually a blister is formed on the leaf. Each blister can produce up to 20 million spores. Tea prepared from blistered leaves is weak, with poor color, aroma, brightness, and briskness. Before the use of fungicides, tea losses to blister blight were staggering with 30-50% losses. Preventive copper sprays have been the mainstay of tea production for the past 60 years. Blister blight is not a problem for organic tea growers since they are permitted the use of copper sprays.

Tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world owing to its taste, the stimulative effect, and also for its health benefits. Perennial habit of the tea plant, peculiar cultural conditions and warm humid climate of the tea growing areas are highly conducive for disease development… Among the leaf diseases, blister blight caused by Exobasidium vexans is the most important one. The disease is known to occur in almost all tea growing areas of Asia. E. vexans is an obligate parasite with no alternate host. Hence, its life cycle has to be completed on tea plant itself. The entire life cycle is completed in 11 days under conducive weather conditions or else it could extend up to 28 days… Comparisons between the crop harvested from tea fields protected by fungicide spray and those left unsprayed indicated a loss of 50% to blister blight disease in six months.”

Authors: Sowndhararajan, K., et al.
Affiliations: School of Life Sciences, India.
Title: Integrated control of blister blight disease in tea using the biocontrol agent Ochrobactrum anthropi strain BMO-111 with chemical fungicides.
Source: Journal of Applied Microbiology. 2013. 114:1491-1499.

Eat Your Lima Beans, They are Not Moldy

Lima Beans: the Good, the Bad, and the Edible.

Lima Beans: moldy (L); Fungicide Treated (R)

Lima bean has been an important crop grown for canning and freezing in the mid-Atlantic area of the United States since the nineteenth century. Lima bean grown for processing is planted on 6,500 hectares in Delaware, with production valued at $6.5 million. 13,000 hectares of lima bean are grown in the United States, with California being the largest producer of lima bean and Delaware being second. Lima bean is considered to be the cornerstone crop of the vegetable processing industry in Delaware, and Delaware remains one of the few states that produce the crop. Lima bean downy mildew was first reported in Connecticut in 1889, and the disease is in Delaware almost every growing season.

“Currently, P. phaseoli [lima bean downy mildew] is limited to the mid-Atlantic areas of Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey and has never been reported to occur in California. This is likely to be due, at least in part, to California’s lower humidity compared with the eastern United States.

In 1958, P. phaseoli was responsible for an epidemic, with more than 907,185 kg of bean loss from 4,725 hectares in Delaware. In 2000, race E of P. phaseoli was responsible for an epidemic in Delaware during September and October, which resulted in an estimated production loss of 40%, equal to a farm value loss of $3,000,000.

Fungicide testing for control of downy mildew of lima beans began as early as 1897 when Bordeaux mixture was recommended for control.

Growers currently make preventative applications of copper fungicides either alone or in combination with insecticides for pod-feeding insects. When conditions for downy mildew are favorable and outbreaks occur, applications of Ridomil Gold/Copper (mefenoxam) or Phostrol are made curatively to unsprayed fields or those where copper fungicides have been applied preventatively.

Currently, several fungicides are labeled and effective for control of downy mildew if applied in a timely manner. Ridomil Gold/Copper (mefenoxam/copper), Phostrol (phosphorus acid salts), and copper fungicides are currently labeled on lima bean and are effective.”

Authors: Evans, T. A., et al.
Affiliations: Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Delaware.
Title: Lima bean downy mildew: impact, etiology, and management strategies for Delaware and the mid-atlantic region, U.S.
Source: Plant Disease. 2007. 91[2]:128-135.

Rain: A Huge Risk When Not Using Herbicides

Tractor in a Field

Cultivator Stuck in a Wet Field

Farmers who use herbicides to control weeds have great flexibility in the timing of applications. Farmers who use cultivation to remove weeds do not have much flexibility. Cultivation must be done when weeds are small. If a field is too wet for a tractor to enter, cultivation cannot be done and the weeds continue to grow and cause crop yield loss. Recent research shows that the wet field problem is common and that relying on cultivation instead of herbicides results in a yield loss of about 26% one-third of the time.

“Wet weather during the early part of the growing season was the major reason that mechanical weed control was difficult in some years.

This variability fit our observations of the trials that there was a large range in annual grain yields in the organic systems depending on how favorable the weather was for mechanical weed control.

The field crew reported problems controlling weeds in the organic systems in 1993 and 1998 at Elkhorn and 1993, 1996, 2000, and 2001 at Arlington.

Based on the above summary, we estimate that the frequency of weed control problems and subsequent reduced yields in low-input row crops is roughly 34 out of every 100 cases and the corresponding relative yield is approximately 74%.”

Authors: Posner, J. L., et al.
Affiliation: Department of Agronomy, University of Wisconsin.
Title: Organic and conventional production systems in the Wisconsin integrated cropping systems trials: I. productivity 1990-2002.
Source: Agronomy Journal. 2008. 100[2]:253-260.

The Brazilian Soybean Miracle That Almost Didn’t Happen

Spraying For Soybean Rust

Spraying For Soybean Rust

Soybean production in Brazil grew rapidly since 1960 with area expanding from 400,000 hectares to 22 million hectares. Brazil is a major soybean producer-62 million tons per year. In 2001, soybean rust was first detected in Brazil and by 2003 the pathogen had spread to the entire country with yield losses up to 75% in individual fields. If fungicides are not used, Brazil would lose about 50% of its soybean production annually.

“More than 50 different fungicidal products are currently labeled for managing soybean rust in Brazil, and many of these have been evaluated annually since 2003/2004 in a nationwide network of standardized, uniform field trials (UFTs) coordinated by Embrapa Soja, a research unit of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation.

We present a meta-analytical synthesis of the results of 71 uniform fungicide trials containing 930 entries (specific fungicidal treatments) conducted in Brazil from 2003/2004 to 2006/2007. …on average, fungicide treatments… increased yield by 43.9%.

The results of this analysis showed that fungicidal control of soybean rust in Brazil is highly effective… (indicating a relative disease reduction of between 90 and 100% in response to treatment). …these comparisons show that, despite favorable environmental conditions for soybean rust epidemics in Brazil, the disease can be managed very effectively with modern fungicides.”

Authors: Scherm, H, et al.
Affiliation: Department of Plant Pathology, University of Georgia.
Title: Quantitative review of fungicide efficacy trials for managing soybean rust in Brazil.
Source: Crop Protection. 2009. 28:774-782.

They’re Only in it for the Money: Organic Farming in the EU

Organic Farmers in Greece

Organic Farmers in Greece

Organic farming regulations are implemented by EU Member States mainly through the provision of financial support to farmers. There has been an increase in the areas under organic management in most EU countries, which is probably related to the direct effect of financial support. Greece is an important country with respect to organically cultivated land and has one of the highest rates of increasing organic areas in the EU. However, Greek organic products are very difficult to find in the market, and sales are extremely low. In other words, only a small amount of organic products are labeled and sold as organic products. Since farmers were willing to switch from conventional to organic agriculture, with the procedure to obtain the organic label being quite simple for farmers to follow, why are so many farmers not enthusiastic about certifying and labeling their products as organic?

“In Greece, organic farming was majorly promoted through the provision of subsidies to farmers, i.e., since 2004. An average organic farmer in Greece has one of the highest per hectare support compared to other countries. However, subsidies are provided with no limitation regarding crop type, geographic region or other more specific characteristics. It is very likely that farmers are not selecting organic management for ideological reasons, but are driven by financial incentives to receive the available subsidies… In any case, when the organic agricultural sector operates in this way, it stops at the farm, resulting in it being short term and highly unsustainable, as it is completely dependent on direct and uninterrupted financing. 

Consequently, since organic farming is made profitable because of subsidies (sometimes double, as in the case of wheat), it is much easier for the farmers to sell organic products as conventional products in a market that they are already familiar with.

As the majority of EU Member States offer per area payments for the conversion and/or maintenance of organic land, the “Bio without Bio”, i.e., organic farming – without organic products case of Greece, is probably not an exception.”

Authors: Argyropoulos, C., et al.
Affiliation: DIO-Certification Body.
Title: Organic farming without organic products.
Source: Land Use Policy. 2013. 32:324-328.

The Insect that Started it all: The Colorado Potato Beetle

Spraying in Paris Green; Colorado Potato Beetle

Spraying Paris Green                        Colorado Potato Beetle

The Colorado Potato Beetle (CPB) is native to Mexico where it fed on a weed, buffalo bur. In 1859, the CPB had adapted to feeding on potato plants in the US and the results were devastating. Yields were reduced, potato prices quadrupled, and many farmers abandoned the crop. Paris Green, a paint pigment, was supposedly determined to have insecticidal properties by a farmer, who after painting his shutters, threw the remaining paint on potato plants infested with CPB. In 1872, entomologists at the USDA recommended that farmers use Paris Green to control CPB and by 1875, spraying Paris Green had become a universal practice in Midwestern potato fields.

“The first major Colorado potato beetle outbreak occurred in 1859 on potato fields about 100 miles west of Omaha, Nebraska. The subsequent expansion in beetle geographic range was somewhat mind-boggling, with beetles reaching the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and Canada before 1880. The first European population was established in France in 1922. By the end of the 20th century, the pest had become a problem all over Europe, in Asia Minor, Iran, Central Asia, and western China. Its current range covers about 16 million km2 on two continents and continues to expand.

Currently, the Colorado potato beetle is widely regarded as the most important insect defoliator of potatoes. One beetle consumes approximately 40 cm2 of potato leaves during the larval stage, and close to an additional 10 cm2 of foliage per day as an adult. In addition to impressive feeding rates, the Colorado potato beetle is also characterized by high fecundity, with one female laying 300–800 eggs. If left uncontrolled, the beetles can completely destroy potato crops.

The Colorado potato beetle has been credited with being largely responsible for creating the modern insecticide industry. Since 1864, hundreds of compounds were tested against this pest, and application equipment was specifically invented to aid their delivery.

Currently, insecticides still remain the foundation of the Colorado potato beetle control on commercial potato farms.”

Authors: Alyokhin, A., et al.
Affiliation: School of Biology and Ecology, University of Maine.
Title: Colorado potato beetle resistance to insecticides
Source: American Journal of Potato Research. 2008. 85:395-413.

Strawberry Fields Forever? Thanks to Fungicides

Strawberry Yields: UK

Strawberry Yields: UK

Strawberry cultivation in the UK reached 13000 hectares by 1924. While the area today is just one-third of the 1924 area, strawberry production has more than doubled due to yield per hectare increasing 5-6 fold. A major factor in increased strawberry yields in the UK has been the increased use and variety of fungicides used.

“The second productivist practice was the increased use of plant protection products from the 1960s. In 1965, up to 11% of the strawberry crops were not sprayed with pesticides; this figure had decreased to less than 2% by 2006. The spray area for fungicides also increased, from 6058 ha in 1965 to 45,960 ha in 2006. This is higher than the area of land cultivated for strawberries since it takes into account multiple sprays per season. The increased use of pesticides during this phase contributed to increasing yields, by decreasing disease pressure. This also had an impact on reducing yearly variations in yield, as pesticides enabled growers to reduce the impact of weather on their crop by reducing disease incidence.”

Authors: Calleja, E. J., et al.
Affiliation: University of Warwick, UK.
Title: Agricultural change and the rise of the British strawberry industry, 1920-2009.
Source: Journal of Rural Studies. 2012. 28:603-611.

Herbicide Use in Finland Promoted by the Government in the 1960s

Herbicide Spraying in Finland 1960

Herbicide Spraying in Finland 1960s

Farmers in Finland were slow in adopting herbicide use in the 1950s with only 12% of the acreage treated and fields were overrun with weeds. The Finnish government launched a national weed control program in the 1960s to promote the use of herbicides and herbicide use increased steadily. Today, more than 95% of cereal crop acres in Finland are treated with herbicides annually.

“In Finland, weeds are of relatively great significance because of the open ditch drainage systems in the fields. After the second world war the problem of weeds assumed an even greater importance owing to the mechanization of plant production. In Finland the use of herbicides was not, however, very prevalent in the 1950’s as in most other agricultural countries.

In view of the above facts a national weed campaign was launched in collaboration with agricultural organizations in 1962. The plan of campaign covered a period of three years. The promotion of the chemical control in cereal crops was the foremost object of the first year. Despite adverse climatic conditions the work proved most successful and the field acreage sprayed with herbicides was doubled, covering finally some 300,000 hectares, corresponding to 28% of the total cereal acreage.”

Author: Mukula, J.
Affiliation: Department of Plant Husbandry, Tikkurila, Finland.
Title: National weed campaign of 1962.
Source: Maatal ja Koetoum. 1963. 17:192-200.

Insecticides Required to Meet Consumer Demands for Blemish-Free Carrots in the EU

nasty carrots

Carrot Fly Damage

Carrot is one of the most important vegetable crops in the EU with 6 billion pounds of annual production. The carrot fly is the major insect pest of the carrot crop in Europe. Before the introduction of insecticides in the 1950s, the carrot fly typically damaged 20-50% of the carrots grown in Europe. In some parts of Europe, the damage from the carrot fly was so severe that it was not profitable to grow carrots. Today, European carrot growers spray insecticides to prevent damage from the carrot fly.

“Carrot fly, is the most widespread and serious pest of carrot, parsnip, parsley and certain other umbelliferous herbs in temperate regions of the world. … The insect has two and, in some parts of Britain, Europe and New Zealand, three generations each year. Adult insects feed on the nectar and pollen provided by flowers and spend most of their life in the hedgerows, ditches or amongst herbaceous plants in gardens. Females search out carrot plants to lay their eggs which are inserted in crevices around the crown of the host plant. The larvae, which emerge from the eggs, migrate downwards to feed on plant roots.

Carrots grown commercially can be rendered unmarketable by even slight carrot fly damage.

To meet the stringent levels of blemish-free produce demanded by the supermarkets in the UK and Europe, commercial carrot production depends precariously on a few insecticides to control this pest.”

Author: Ellis, P. R.
Affiliation: Horticulture Research International, UK.
Title: The identification and exploitation of resistance in carrots and wild Umbelliferae to the carrot fly, Psila rosae (F.)
Source: Integrated Pest Management Reviews. 1999. 4:259-268.