Organic Apple Growing Not Popular in Sweden

Apple Scab

Apple Scab

The Swedish government set a goal of having 20% of the total crop area grown organically by 2010. Organic fruit acreage did not make the goal and is still less than 5%. Growers fear low yields and poor quality by not using chemical pesticides in organic systems. Apple production would decline significantly in Sweden if the majority of growers gave up the use of pesticides and used organic methods. A major problem for apple growers in Sweden is apple scab.

 “There is a large demand for domestically grown apples in Sweden. However, approximately 85% of the apples consumed in Sweden are imported, and the percentage of imported organic apples is even higher. Organic fruit is produced on 4% of the orchard area.

The estimated cost price of producing organic apples in a 5 ha orchard is €1.14 per kg, which is twice as high as for conventionally produced apples, mainly due to lower yields in organic production. Modern apple orchards have average yields of 40 ton/ha in conventional production and around 20 ton/ha in organic production.

The high cost price of organic apples was mainly due to lower yields in organic production, but also higher costs for weed control. Although it is possible to generate similar economic returns from organic production, few conventional growers in Sweden are converting to organic production. Another obstacle is that growers fear low yields and poor quality in organic production due to pests, diseases and weeds.”

Authors: Ascard, J., et al.
Affiliation: Swedish Board of Agriculture.
Title: Cost price calculations for organically and conventionally grown apples in Sweden.
Source: Ecofruit Proceedings. 2010.

Residents Protest Organic Farm’s Mishandling of Pests

In September 2011, the situation in Jacumba, California got so out of hand that residents planned to protest the neighboring organic farm. Why? Eye gnats. Since Bornt & Sons Organic Farm can’t use chemical insecticides to control gnats, humans and animals in the small town of Jacumba are continually plagued with them flying around their eyes. East County Magazine reported on the issue…

The gnats serve as a vector for diseases including pink eye and summer mastitis, causing swelling and burning of the protective membrane lining the eyelids and discharge from the eyes. … Chelsea Russell, a teacher at Jacumba School, says for the past seven years, her students have suffered. …’I ask myself, do I teach in a third world country?'”

“Eye gnats are very common in warm, dry areas. They grow in light, well drained sandy soils that are freshly plowed and contain abundant organic matter. Conditions at Bornt’s farms are ideal and because the farm is organic, Bornt is limited to the types of pesticides he can use.”

As a follow up to this story, Bornt & Sons Organic Farm planned to cease operations as of June 2012. Because they have removed their non-chemical eye gnat controls in preparation to close, the eye gnat swarms have been growing in Jacumba this summer.

Title: Jacumba residents call for shut-down of organic farm over eye gnat infestation; plan protest march on Sept. 17.
Publication: East County Magazine. September 11, 2011.

Organic Methods are Not an Option for Feeding China

China has made remarkable progress in increasing food production to feed its growing population. China can feed itself thanks to the widespread adoption of chemical pesticides and industrial fertilizers. Organic yields are considerably lower without these inputs, which means that widespread adoption of organic practices is not an option for feeding China’s 1.3 billion people.

“Today, China provides enough food for 21% of the world’s population from 9% of the world’s cultivated land. From 1949 to 2000, China’s population increased from 450 million to over 1200 million. During the same period, China’s food crop production increased from 130 Mt to 550 Mt. … This remarkable increase has led China to be able to feed its people.”

“Although organic farming is an old system brought out as a new concept, in our view it is not a practical national farming system for many developing countries – like China. … In organic farming, crop yields and production efficiency are lower and the unit cost of production higher. To produce the same total quantity of any crop, a larger area of land is needed. This additional area is not available in China, so that organic farming on a large scale is not an option to be advocated.”

Authors: Fang Chen & Kaiyuan Wan
Affiliation: Wuhan Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, China
Title: The impact of organic agriculture on food quantity, food quality and the environment: a China perspective (Letter to the Editor).
Publication: Soil Use and Management (2005) 21:73-74. Available: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1475-2743.2005.tb00109.x/abstract

Organic Foods Cost More Due to Lack of Herbicides

Organic growers do not use synthetic chemicals for controlling weeds. Many organic growers rely on workers to remove weeds by hand. However, hand-weeding labor is much more expensive than the use of herbicides – as high as $1000/acre in comparison to $50/acre. The increased cost of weeding is one of the reasons that organic food costs more, a point recently made by the well-known food writer, Michael Pollan…

“There are several reasons organic food costs more than conventional food. … Farming without chemicals is inherently more labor-intensive, especially when it comes to weeding.”

Author: Michael Pollan
Title: “Michael Pollan Answers Reader’s Questions”
Publication: The New York Times Magazine. October 6, 2011. pp.34-36.