Wisconsin orchard IPM program helps cut pesticide use

11/13/2013 03:28:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

Courtesy University of WisconsinOrchardist Tom FergusonAn increasing number of Wisconsin apple growers have adopted integrated pest management while reducing their pesticide use.

Not only is it good for the environment, but it also has sent a positive message to state and federal agencies, according to a news release.

The work is being under the Eco-Fruit Program, a collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and several apple growers.

Founded in 2000, it has served nearly 100 apple and berry growers in more than 20 counties.

Part of the program involves regular informal meetings where growers will meet over breakfast to discuss and share best growing techniques.

The program also has increased growers' exposure to new equipment and technologies that have helped them reduce pesticide use.

For example, they now use weather data to predict where diseases may erupt and to anticipate thresholds where insect pressures will undercut profits.

“Ten years ago we would have been completely reliant on tree phenology and the calendar, but now we are completely data-driven,” Tom Ferguson, an orchardist in the Eau Claire and Galesville areas and one of the first participants, said in the release.

Participants have been able to reduce pesticide risk by 46 percent while increasing reliance on IPM by 54 percent, according to recent figures.

The program will continue as more of the state's farmers become interested in pesticide-reduction techniques.

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