Limited availability of effective pesticides or other responsive pest management tactics for pests with low economic thresholds is a major challenge for organic fruit producers. Thus, farmers are constantly looking for new methods to control detrimental insects. Organic apple grower, Jim Koan has been rotationally grazing Berkshire hogs in his organic apple orchards. The idea is that the hogs eat fallen apples infected with plum curculio larvae, thereby interrupting the life cycle of the pest. The hogs also consume weeds growing in the orchard, and may impact codling moth and apple scab, making them a well rounded pest management tactic as well as providers of tasty organic bacon and chops!
In addition to the pest management benefits of rotational grazing of hogs we are also exploring the economics of the system and are seeking to begin assessing potential animal welfare benefits, meat quality, and food safety aspects of hogs and animal manures in apple orchards. This research is being conducted in collaboration with MSU researchers Dave Epstein, Dale Rozeboom, and George Sundin. Preliminary funding has been supplied by the USDA OREI program, the North Central IPM Center and the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station.
Krista Buehrer recently took third place in the graduate student poster competition at the 22nd annual MOSES conference in La Crosse WI. The project involved the use of post harvest flash grazing for managing diseases and weeds in perennial fruit crops. Download a pdf of the poster here.
It was hot and soggy but a good crowd turned up at the OTFA field day. Themes for the day were organic cider production, organic pest management, and marketing strategies . Lab PI, Matt Grieshop, presented information on the basics of orchard insect management as well as a short bulletin on the apple flea weevil, an emerging pest in MI apples. Krista presented the latest data from the hog project and Nate presented data on his ongoing research with entomopathogenic nematodes (click on the links to download a PDF).
A big thank you is in order to the OTFA and Earth First Farms for putting together this most excellent field day with a special thank you to Tom Rosenfeld and his family, Jackie Hoch, and Greg Mund for all their hard work organizing the day.
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