Perennial flower strips help control pests that devastate apple harvests

Photo credit: Chris Abney

Apple production in North America and Europe is largely threatened by two insect pests: rosy apple aphids and codling moths. In conventional apple production, heavy inputs of insecticides are required to control these pests, but organic production cannot rely on the same chemical tools. A study published in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment found a non-chemical way to help control these pests that can be employed by organic and conventional systems alike: planting perennial flower strips in orchard alleyways effectively controls rosy apple aphids and coddling moths by promoting natural enemies of the pests. The benefits of the flower strips increased over time, with more apple production in the second study season. This paper demonstrates a practice that can be incorporated into both organic and conventional apple production systems, which could reduce the need for chemical pest control and benefit the apple industry as a whole.